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Anxiety after open heart surgery

  • 1.  Anxiety after open heart surgery

    Posted 03-16-2020 11:17
    Has anyone else noticed increased anxiety after open heart surgery? Here's the reason for my question: I went for an MRI on Saturday for a non-heart related issue. I've had several MRIs in the past and have never had an issue with claustrophobia. However, this weekend I had to have them take me out of the machine 5 minutes after they got started. When I got in the machine I suddenly started having a panic attack, which I've never had before, and couldn't finish the test. Now I'll have to reschedule the MRI after I've spoken to my doctor and gotten him to write a script for some Valium or Xanax that I can use to help me relax before I go back in the machine again.

    It occurred to me afterwards that since my open heart surgery last year I've been dealing with a lot more anxiety in general. I've always been a very upbeat and positive person and most things don't worry me too much but since the surgery I worry a lot more than I used to. Is it just me or have others noticed this after their surgery? Any suggestions on how to deal with this? Any input would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks, everyone!

    Brett in Sarasota, FL

    Brett Temple
    Project Manager
    Sarasota FL

  • 2.  RE: Anxiety after open heart surgery

    Posted 03-17-2020 13:13
    Hi Brett, 

    My anxiety came out of no where after my OHS.  I freaked out about so many things, I felt like a small child most times of the day or night.  

    Once I found this Mended Heart Forum, I found that the OHS had a lot to do with post surgical anxiety and every day it now gets better with continued posting and reading posts here at the Forum.  

    Some of us even consider that the OHS may have caused a PTSD type of anxiety that was not present before the surgery.  I am sure that other members will have info for you and will post soon

    Mary H

  • 3.  RE: Anxiety after open heart surgery

    Posted 03-17-2020 20:15
    Hi Brett,
    I wanted to let you know you're not alone. I too developed  anxieties, fears and mild depression after my surgery (I'm ten months out now). I've always been a pretty laid back, happy person so I couldn't really understand why I was feeling this way. I didn't want to talk with family or friends about how I was feeling. One of the nurses at rehab suggested I see a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist. I've already had about ten sessions with her and I can tell you it has helped me a lot!!! I hope this helps you.
    Best of luck to you on your continued recover, especially with this virus going around. (It has given me a whole new anxiety LOL!)
    Stay safe and healthy!

    michelle leverett
    Ridgecrest CA

  • 4.  RE: Anxiety after open heart surgery

    Posted 03-18-2020 00:46
    Wash your hands and face.

  • 5.  RE: Anxiety after open heart surgery

    Posted 03-18-2020 10:34
    PTSD and heart issues,

    There are 1.4 million patients discharged every year from hospitals after a heart attack or coronary event, the equivalent of every person in our fifth largest city Philadelphia. Of the 1.4 million, 168,000 will develop "clinically significant" symptoms of PTSD, or the equivalent of every person in Chattanooga, TN, or Sydney, Australia. This is 12%, or one in every 8 heart patients, which is 900% higher than the estimated 1.3% in the general population (Columbia University study).

    "Clinically significant" PTSD has been defined as "significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other areas of functioning." In most cases the PTSD will last one to six months. In some cases professional assistance is required. I discuss specifics in my book "One Heart-Two Lives: Managing Your Rehabilitation Program WELL."

    Brent Zepke

  • 6.  RE: Anxiety after open heart surgery

    Posted 03-18-2020 11:11
    Wonderful into Brent...
     I had no idea the range was that
    high for symptoms of PTSD

    At 7 months post op I would have to say that my emotional
    life and health continues to improve everyday.

    I will look up your book.
    "One Heart-Two Lives: Managing Your Rehabilitation Program WELL."

    Thank you so much.  

    Mary H

  • 7.  RE: Anxiety after open heart surgery

    Posted 03-21-2020 17:48

    7 years ago i gad open heart surgery with complications  that hD ne in a coma for 10 days .  If anyone should have PTSD, it should br me. Fortunately the doctor had me on anti depressants and anti anxiety medicines for severL months afterwards. It doesnt help that the medical staff asks you "do you gave anxiety? Fo you want to hurt yourself? Etc"
    My husband suffered more than me as he  feared for my life,   MendedHearts  hearts meetings and friendships have been helpful to him especially even now years later.  

    If you are having issues, tell your doctors honestly. They will prescribe help for you 

    Marilyn Rosenhouse
    Dallas TX
    (214) 850-0219

  • 8.  RE: Anxiety after open heart surgery

    Posted 03-18-2021 09:45
    i dont think there is a relation between open heart surgery and anxiety but if you i agree with that the green xanax bars 3mg is good to get rid of anxiety.

    elvin chard
    Angola LA

  • 9.  RE: Anxiety after open heart surgery

    Posted 03-18-2021 11:24
    Dear Brett and Elvin
    Of course, its natural to have anxiety after any major operation especially open heart surgery!  Many are afraid to do anything to reinjure their hearts!  thats one reason we are told to reduce STRESS ( since there is always stress ??? how to that is a whole new lifestyle). My doctor automatically prescribed anti anxiety medication during my recovery period.   His cocktail of anti anxiety, anti-depression,  and pain meds kept me happy during the recovery period ( 3 weeks in hospital, 3 weeks in rehab, one month at home, 12 weeks out patient rehab).  
    Please take advantage of medications, support of friends and relatives and PRAYERS 
    Time will help too. 

    Marilyn B. Rosenhouse
    Mobile: (214)850-0655

  • 10.  RE: Anxiety after open heart surgery

    Posted 03-18-2021 14:27
    Thanks, Marilyn. I wish my doctor would have been more proactive in addressing it up front like yours did. Not one person, neither the doctors or the nurses, gave me any indication on what to expect so I was kind of blindsided by it. I ended up doing my own research and thankfully stumbled across Mended Hearts. It's been a Godsend.

  • 11.  RE: Anxiety after open heart surgery

    Posted 03-18-2021 12:10
    Elvin ~ Depression and it's ugly step child anxiety do indeed go hand in hand with open heart surgery as Marilyn rightly pointed out. It is one of those many minor details doctors rarely mention to us, guess they're afraid we'll back out and they'll lose the revenue. The severity and duration vary by individual and probably relates to our personalities ( ie how much we drink of the grape).


  • 12.  RE: Anxiety after open heart surgery

    Posted 03-19-2021 10:12
    This isn't the place to recommend an additional ??med?? are you a doctor?
    I don't think that any heart patient should be self diagnosing and taking another ??med?? on top of their prescriptions.

  • 13.  RE: Anxiety after open heart surgery

    Posted 03-28-2021 09:06
    Good morning, Brett
    I had full-blown PTSD after my complicated rescue from an extensive "widow-maker" obstruction in my left main artery.

    Anxiety, yes, as well as flashbacks, hypervigilence, fear of the dark, and feelings of dread.  I was afraid to go to bed because I could picture the EMTs at the foot of my bed setting up their equipment and then carrying me over their heads downstairs to the ambulance.  Then there was the concurrent fear of contracting COVID in the hospital as well as the isolation/loneliness of no visitor policies in two hospitals in two cities. On my own.

    Nurse friends connected me to a nurse therapist retired from UT-Austin and we met on Zoom for about 6 weeks.  She helped me get to a better place and to develop some specific coping strategies. Seven months later I still have bouts of anxiety about the future.  Prayer helps me put it all into perspective.

    Knowing that anxiety is common may be all the reality testing you need to do.  Don't hesitate to ask for counseling if your anxiety is top of mind to the extent you want to do something about it. Big deal surgeries requite a lot of "mental/emotional processing" in the months following.  OHS has so many're a survivor. Celebrate that.  Celebrate the opportunities every day to heal in small ways.  Take naps!  It's ok to just sit and stare out the window as you process your memories and current concerns.

    Stay in touch and let us know how you're doing.
    Peace and be of good cheer

    Doris Edwards
    Retired RN
    Dublin, Ohio

  • 14.  RE: Anxiety after open heart surgery

    Posted 03-28-2021 11:31
    Good morning everyone, 
    Just my 2 cents worth as a OHS patient, who also started
    to feel anxiety after surgery.

    None of us wants to die, that is a very scary subject and
    does cause anxiety even without having OHS, but for me and 
    others, the knowledge that there is only a thin line between you and death can really get into your psyche and cause deep anxiety.

    I started listening to YouTube videos about the fear of death 
    and even on TED talks there are many speakers who address these issues.  Then I even went further and started meditation practice 2 times a day.

    It made a huge difference in my attitude and what I worry or don't worry about any more.  It is good to do healthy things like keep your weight down, stop smoking, watch the alcohol, and get exercise, but all in all we are pretty powerless over the day when our time here on earth is done.  Sometimes it takes a minute or 20 to realize I am focused on dying rather than on living, but when I realize what I am thinking about, I am then able to recognize those thoughts and move on to something else.  Wishing you all the best


  • 15.  RE: Anxiety after open heart surgery

    Posted 04-04-2021 13:47
    Hi Brett,
    I had open heart surgery on January 12, 2021 and find that I'm anxious about my heart, my life, Covid, and pretty much everything. :(.  I have recently begun seeing a therapist who specializes in PTSD, and it's helping.  I think that open heart surgery is probably about the most traumatic thing that can happen to a person. You are not alone for sure.


    Liza Levine
    New York NY

  • 16.  RE: Anxiety after open heart surgery

    Posted 04-04-2021 14:06
    Dear Lisa and Brett
    it is very natural to have anxiety after open heart surgery!
    I had 3 panic attacks in the months after. One was when we were on a cruise, 6 months post/op. We were supposed to go tour Grand Cayman Island and i couldn’t leave the boat dock. What, you say, a vacation a cruise after only 6 months post open heart surgery (with complications that included 10 days in medically induced coma, 3 weeks inpatient rehab to get the strength to sit up) ?!?! Yes life goes on even better !

    Marilyn B. Rosenhouse
    Mobile: (214)850-0655

  • 17.  RE: Anxiety after open heart surgery

    Posted 04-05-2021 06:15
    Hi Marilyn, Liza and Brett,

    Marilyn, how strange it is that we had very similar post-op experiences.  I was kept in a medically induced coma on a ventilator for 13 days post surgery thanks  to ventilator induced bacterial pneumonia an antibiotic induced cdiff. I also then spent 3 weeks in a rehab hospital learning to feed myself, stand, walk and terrorize the physical therapists and attending medical staff by disarming their alarm system that alerted them when I left my wheelchair to get up and walk unsupervised.

    Liza and Brett, I'm now 38 months post OHS and I have not lost my deep sense of gratitude and joy at being permitted to live the rest of my life on borrowed time.  Don't get me wrong.  Each moment if life is sweet, regardless of whether we realize it at any particular moment or not, and whether or not we characterize ourselves as living on borrowed time.  It's just that I never quite felt this ongoing sense of gratitude until I kissed the front door of my home and greeted my dog, who waited for me like Greyfriars Bobby during my long 6 week hospitalization.

    I still experience PTSD symptoms, but I don't suffer them and I'm here to tell you that anxiety and fear are not a necessary or inevitable outcome of open heart surgery.

    All the best,


    Ira Reid
    Hoboken NJ

  • 18.  RE: Anxiety after open heart surgery

    Posted 04-05-2021 09:06
    Thank you, Ira.  It feels better already just reading these posts and knowing that other people have experienced similar crazy hard stuff.

    Liza Levine
    New York NY

  • 19.  RE: Anxiety after open heart surgery

    Posted 04-05-2021 09:34
    Hi Lisa
    I'm 7 months post OHS (with complications) now and realizing that it was a life changing event which unfolds over time.  I am somewhat limited physically but I am gaining strength albeit slowly.  The anxiety and hyper vigilance have greatly lessened and I am happy every day.  I still have angina which requires NTG but now I think of taking nitro as giving my heart vessels a little boost rather than impending doom.
    You'll find your way
    Best wishes

    Doris Edwards
    Retired RN
    Dublin, Ohio