Insights from the Surgeon on the Complexities of Aortic Surgery

Exploring the emotional depth and professional insights of cardiac surgeon Professor Mark Field on aortic surgery.

Date

May 2024

Focus

Insights from the frontline of aortic surgery

In partnership with

The Silent Why Podcast

Professor Mark Field, Cardiac Surgeon based in Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, offers a rare and intimate glimpse into the life-and-death decisions and emotional nuances of heart and aortic surgery during an insightful conversation on The Silent Why podcast.

Confronting Patient Loss

Mark addresses a topic seldom discussed openly among surgeons – the profound emotional impact of losing patients. This admission highlights the deeply personal burden carried by surgeons, countering the stereotype of clinical detachment in the medical profession.

“I have a list of patients who have died… I can look at their names and remember every single detail about what happened.”

The Sacred Role of the Surgeon

Mark articulates a deep reverence for the human heart, describing the act of holding it during surgery as an extraordinary responsibility and privilege, underscoring the blend of awe and gravity that accompanies such moments.

“Having the heart in your hand is very special every time”.

The Emotional Challenges of Delivering Tragic News

Mark underlines one of the most daunting aspects of his job: conveying the news of a patient’s death to their family. He discusses the absence of formal training for handling such delicate situations, which can leave surgeons unprepared for the intense and raw emotional reactions they must face.

“You can witness the relative crumbling in front of you… and sometimes the response is so deep and so visceral that it is almost shocking to you”.

Coping Mechanisms

He also discusses the range of emotional responses that surgeons may exhibit when faced with stressful or tragic outcomes. He explains variations from anger to withdrawal and emphasises the necessity for effective coping strategies to manage these intense feelings, highlighting the personal and professional challenges in maintaining composure and resilience.

“Some surgeons get very angry, others go completely introvert”.

Examining the complexities of surgical decision-making, Mark discusses the intricate balance of risk and potential reward in aortic surgery. He reflects on the ethical dilemmas and pressures to make lifesaving, split-second decisions under uncertainty.

“Sometimes doing something can make things worse, sometimes… you have to do something, but doing something may actually lose that position you’re in”.

Marks reflections provide an educational perspective on the demanding realities of cardiac surgery, emphasising the technical expertise, ethical considerations, and emotional intelligence essential to this challenging medical discipline. His experiences highlight the scientific rigour and the profound humanity at the heart of his profession.

Healing from Aortic Dissection Loss

This podcast provides unique insights by connecting the experiences of medical professionals, like Prof Mark Field, with those of families who have lost loved ones to aortic dissection. It serves as an essential part of our bereavement resources, offering not only comfort but also a deeper comprehension of both the medical complexities and the emotional journeys that unfold in the wake of such profound loss.

Supporting Bereaved Partners and Family Members of Aortic Dissection Patient
Could it be aortic dissection video masterclass

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