Chip Shots by Chip Griffin

Outcome of My Surgery

So I had my (relatively minor) heart surgery this past Monday. Specifically, an atrial flutter ablation where they burned some heart tissue in order to interrupt the electrical signals causing one of my irregular heartbeats.

The docs say I had “typical flutter” — which basically means they were able to treat it. Had it been “atypical flutter” they would have stopped the procedure because it would have been higher risk with less likelihood of success, plus it requires a different physical approach.

It was sort of a surreal experience to head into the room where the procedure would take place. After a couple of hours of pre-testing, preping, and waiting, I was wheeled in to a good size room that had barely a square inch of space to spare. It was flooded with computer monitors (well over a dozen I would estimate) that flanked one wall and hovered above the table where the action would happen.

I was kept awake for the festivities, though I was given medicine that made me pretty groggy. I only remember bits and pieces of what took place. I do recall at the end being told by the lead doctor that he was going to try a few experiments to learn about my atrial fibrillation (the other irregular heartbeat I experience).

Afterwards, I met with the doctor and he told me that the procedure had been a complete success. They were able to ablate the flutter in one attempt (which is good because that means I don’t have any excess scar tissue hanging around in my heart). And the experimentation they did at the end suggests that the medication I am on is doing a pretty good job of preventing the a-fib from appearing. Basically, they injected me with increasingly higher doses of various drugs in an attempt to induce a-fib to appear. It didn’t.

The procedure took a bit longer than I expected — about 5 hours in the “lab” as they call the room where it took place. Then a bit longer in recovery, and finally back to my room. After a few more hours of bed rest where I had to endure nurses repeatedly telling me to lie still (just try lying flat on your back for an entire day without being able to move your arms or legs — it’s a lot harder than it sounds!), I was finally able to sit up and eat.

Another 24 hours or so and I was allowed to go home, where I have been resting quietly the past couple of days. I’m still fatigued and a bit sore, but am otherwise doing fine. I have noticed no flutter since returning home, and only one relatively short burst of a-fib (typical of what I have had for many years before it got worse this year).

From here, I just have to hope that the a-fib doesn’t “break through” and become persistent again. If it doesn’t, then I won’t have a follow-up for 3 months. If it does, then they’ll try increasing the meds I’m on to beat it back. The goal is to hold it at bay for a few years to see what treatment options exist at that time.

As for the rest of the drug cocktail I’m on, the hope is that we might be able to cut back on it in about 3 months if everything goes well.

Now the only (relatively minor) annoyance is the shots I have to give myself twice a day to fight off blood clots. Hopefully I can stop those today after I get a blood test to see if the regular blood thinners I went back on after the procedure have kicked in.

Bottom line: things went as well as could be expected this week. Now bring on 2009!

And a special word of thanks to all of my family and friends — those in the real world and those I know only through the virtual realm — who expressed they concerns and well wishes over the past week. It really is appreciated.

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