Married patients recover better after heart surgery

Oct 29, 2015, 4:20 PM EDT
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Research published in JAMA Surgery reports that patients who are married are far more likely to recover quickly and well than patients who are single, widowed, or divorced. Unmarried patients have a 40% higher chance of dying, developing other physical problems, or needing certain care within a couple of years of surgery. Reuters reports:

Formerly married people may be at an increased risk of disability or death soon after heart surgery, suggests new U.S. research.
In the two years after their surgery, patients who were divorced, separated or widowed were about 40 percent more likely than married people to die or need help with common activities, researchers reported in JAMA Surgery.
"I think people recognize that social determinants of health are very important, but in terms of surgery very little has been done on how these related to functional outcomes," said lead author Dr. Mark Neuman, of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
Dr. Ashish Shah, head of heart transplantation at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said the findings echo earlier studies that found married patients tend to do better in surgery than those who are unmarried. Shah said, however, the key will be understanding why these patients do better and seeing if there is a way to help other patients get the support and help they need even if they don't have a current partner. Shah was not involved or affiliated with the study.
"There’s always been the feeling that people who have [a person] that is supporting them tend to do better," Shah told ABC News. "Most heart surgeons would agree that emotional stressors will complicate operations."
Shah said surgeons used to focus on the mantra of "cut well, tie well, do well," for treating patients, but they are now looking more at what happens to that patient out of the hospital.
"Most experienced heart surgeons [will] say, 'Who’s at home with you and how is their health?,'" said Shah.