Remarkable things are happening in health care. But if you’re a consumer — particularly if you’re ill and need something more than medicine’s standard bag of tricks — the sobering fact is that it’s up to you, the patient, to take charge.
Each year, a quarter-million people need to have one of the four valves in their hearts repaired or replaced. For most, that means open heart surgery — a grueling operation. The surgeon makes a cut straight into the breastbone, cracking the ribs, opening up the chest and exposing the heart. The surgery takes two to five hours. It takes another six weeks for the bone to heal. The risks are high: blood clots, infection, kidney failure, death. All can easily occur, especially if you’re older.