memory loss after cabgx4 at 47 yrs old

Hi! I am new to this discussion group...came across it while strolling the web for info on memory lass after heart by-pass. I was 47 when I had my cabgx4, no heart attack...they said I would not have survived if I had one - heart diease to difuse for stenting, I had 7 blockages they said they only could fix 4...odd story on how I ended up in the cardio surgen office, but very thankful I did.
Well I am now a little over 1 year out Dec. 18 2007 was the bypass date...and I am still very troubled by thought process and memory. I only really began to notice when those around me were saying I had alredy asked that or said that....or dont you remember.It was only after I had misplaced my truck in a small parking lot that I also had to agree something was wrong. The cardio said it could be pump head, he sent me to a neurolgist who said it was depression and handed off some meds. My PCP sent me to a neuro-psych doctor for rule out dementia..please I was only 47.....she said after the testing I had ADD and referred me to a psycologist to learn coping skills.
The things that bother me with this issue are my love of reading has gone out the window hard to follow or understand sometimes the words do not make any sense. It is had at times to follow conversations, remember dates, names, and misplace things.
My emotions have also flatlined.
Can anyone relate?
I also just had a chest wall insional hernia repair Dec. 2008, during the week that followed I was very confused has lighted but the memory thought process had not returned.
All this at times becomes overwhelming!
Any suggestions are welcome.

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You are far from alone in what you are dealing with. Some people don't seem to have any long term effects from being on the bypass machine, and others of us, like you, struggle daily. My triple bypass took place just after yours - 12/30/2007 at age 41. If you look at my journal, there is an entry titled "How 32 cents can ruin a day". It describes one of my early experiences with pump head.

I kept thinking it would get better and it did - somewhat. I still call my 2 daughters by each others names. I occasionally call them by one of our pets names. I mix up words. I mean to say one thing and something else comes out. I forget what I am walking into a room for or to do and have to really focus to remember. I lose things constantly. Sitting here typing this, I will have to read it 4 or 5 times before I post it because words that I am thinking get typed differently - my spelling is near perfect but my fingers type different words than I am thinking.

Depression plays a part in all this. I think it has to. How can we not feel some after all we have been through? We are still the same people, but so different in so many ways? I went on anto-depressants for a while and they helped, but I weaned myself off them when I realized they were numbing me too much. The fog I was in was much thicker on those meds.

The best way I describe the way my mind works now to others is that it is like laughing, but not quite getting joke all the time. Like being in a room but not sure quite why. Like trying to live your life, but not feeling quite alive all the time. Finding the laughter again has helped a lot. I find humor wherever I can, especially at my own expense. I can't change how my mind works now, but I can still exercise it. I had trouble reading at first, but I made myself get a book and read a few pages at a time. Then I would pick it up the next day and reread the page I had read last and then read a few more. I can now enjoy reading again. If I find myself lost at any point, I go back and read paragraphs here and there to catch back up.

The most important thing you can do is not beat yourself up over this. Exercise your mind in little ways - crossword puzzles, word finds, etc. I have noticed when I am overtired or stressed out I struggle more so I try not to get that way. I lost my cell phone not too long ago. I knew I had had it right before I got home from shopping because I called hubby from the highway. I called it and could hear it ringing ever so faintly. I tore my house and van apart. I looked through the garabage. The ringing stopped and my phone went straight to voice mail. It only does that when it is turned off. Do you know where I found my phone? In my freezer the next morning! I had put it in one of my bags when bringing in groceries and forgotten I had done that. It had gone into the freezer with a bag full of TV dinners! Talk about pump head!

Sometimes I don't make sense to other people and/or they don't make sense to me. But I am still alive and I am still functioning pretty well so I just accept the pump head as part of my survival. And I laugh as much as I can!

Take care -

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Hi Willo --

Well, you and I are nearly twins! My quad bypass surgery was on December 19, 2007. Just one day after yours. I'm sorry that we had to meet this way, but it is nice to meet you anyway! I haven't had serious memory issues, but I do notice a few things that are slowly but surely improving as time passes. My biggest issue is that I have trouble pulling out words that I know and use in my vocabulary all the time. It can be quite frustrating. However, lately I am noticing that I am getting a little better with that. I've actually always had a small problem with this, but it worsened after my heart surgery, but now I am noticing slight improvement, so there is hope.

I have read in many places that the memory and mental difficulties post CABG surgery do improve with time. I would imagine that everyone is on a different clock, so to speak. I agree with Dianna that doing things that will make your brain "work" could possibly help -- jigsaw puzzles, brain teaser games, doing math games, and yes, reading, even though it may be frustrating at times. I like what Dianna said about reading a few pages, then the next day reading a couple of them again plus a few more. That is a good idea. I have actually begun to read again, as well. Right now I'm reading a wonderful heart book that I would recommend to EVERYONE -- it's named "Take A Load Off Your Heart" written by Joseph C. Piscatella and Barry A. Franklin, PhD. I have had the privilege of hearing Mr. Piscatella speak at a seminar I attended, and I have learned so much from him, and his personal story is amazing. So I would recommend the book. It also has a small section regarding memory issues and heart surgery. There is a wealth of information in that book, though.

Anyway, I am babbling now, so I'll come to a close. I hope that you stick around here, because there is also a wealth of information to be found in the posts written by the highly intelligent women on this board! You'll be impressed the more that you read! I've grown to love my daily visits to this wonderful place!

Take care, and welcome. I sure would like to sit down with you and talk about where you are in your recovery and how you're doing, since we had our surgery so close together. Again, Welcome!!

Dana in AZ

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Hi Willo,

Memory loss is a subject near & not so dear to my heart. No pun intended. I had CABGx2 in 97 & CABG x3 in 98. I was 30 & 31 respectively. I have stuggled for years with the whole memory loss thing. Being at a stop light in a car & having no idea where it was I am going. Forgetting common words... I once forgot the word forget. Forgetting names of people I've known casually for years. My doctor says its my medicine that causes it & it's exacerbated by stress. Well, duh!!! Forgetting things stresses me out!!!!

I now tell people that I have a memory deficit problem caused by my meds and write all my appointments down, no matter how small or regular. If it's not written, I forget it. (I do have a problem with setting the appt book down & not knowing where.) Post it's are wonderful reminders. You can stick them anywhere & toss them when you're done. The trick is to accept that its another side affect, accept it, & deal with it as best as you can.

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Hi Willo,

You are not alone. I had a CABG 2x in Sept 07 at age 42. I have had problems with memory loss ever since.
Sometimes I will be in the middle of talking to someone and totally forget my train of thought. I usually have to ask something more that once to get it. I now rely alot on post it notes.

It is very depressing and I feel the Dr's don't explain that this could happen. When this first started happening I would come home from work and cry for fear I was losing my mind. Luckily during an internet search I found articles about bypass brain and pump head.

Besides the bypass we are all on multiple medications that can impact our memory. Other heart ailments such as CHF restricts oxygen your organs so this can contribute to brain issues.

I just purchased a Ninetendo DS system and two of their brain age games. Hopefully doing this daily can help my cog functions.


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My CABG was in January of 2001. I too was 47. Immediately I noticed differences in my cognitive skills. Professionally, I had been 'on top of my game'. As a social worker, among my previous skill sets had been the ability to remember the array of medications my clients took on a daily basis; after my surgery, I could not remember my own. My husband was very helpful and put my meds in small ziplock bags with color coded dots on them. Often, I had to stop and recall which dot represented which time of day.

When I returned to work as a research specialist at a local college the losses in my thinking were even more apparent. At meetings with folks I had known more than casually I frequently would remember their faces but their names totally escaped me. I was absolutely embarrased when I approached a gentleman I had known and worked with closely for years and called him by the wrong name. Thank God he is a compassionate man. He looked at me (with an expression of concern) and said, "It's me, Ron".

Numbers began making sense to me before letters and words did. I remarked to a friend (and colleague) that the stats I was running made sense however my ability to narrate the stats was a struggle. She mentioned that my progress made sense to her because digits are more primary than alpha.

Eight years after my CABG I am still hesitant to speak before a group. There are lags in my speech that I did not experience prior. The people that did not know me before my open-heart surgery do not seem to notice; those people that did know me before reassure me I am getting better all the time.

One of my doctors (a rude SOB) said that 80% of CABG patients experience cognitive differences post-surgically and the other 20% were not smart enough to recognize the difference. Another doctor told me I may have had a stroke during the procedure and scheduled a miriad of tests. There is no clinical evidence there was a stroke. However, the doctors conducting the tests said I may have had higher skill levels prior to the surgery and now I am more average.

Depression, you bet. I am depressed for a number of reasons. Not the least of which is learning that I was never a candidate for by-pass surgery. I have small vessel disease.

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I have to chime in here....

I did NOT have byopass and have these same issues since my minor HA in Aug. 07 at 39.

Although I do believe in pump head, I wonder why I have it! : ) Maybe for me it's the depression and medications (?). Just a thought.

- Peg

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Hi Willo: I had my cabg X5 in NOV 2004 at the age of 50. It took me a while to realize I could not remember things. I am a Type A personality that had a near photographic memory and I also have OCD. I was a systems analyst with the Fed Govt - I have since retired. When I went back to work in Jan 05 I could not remember how to do my job, I spend a lot of time in the restroom crying, I went home in tears every day for weeks until I realized I now must become the note taker extrodinare of my office. When I retired last Aug I had 10 of the huge 3 ring binders with notes of how to do anything I had ever been asked to do for the past 3+ years. I still have memory problems so I have notebooks/sticky pads in every room of the house, my car, pocketbook, etc - this is because I still have short term memory loss.

It does get better. It is rather funny in that my kids tell me of things they did as children and we laugh until our sides hurt or some one wets their pants.

I try to find humor in my journey thru heart disease. Memory loss can be welcomed - it gets me out of trouble when I don't want to do something I JUST SAY I DIDN'T REMEMBER TO DO IT.

Take care and Laugh Often


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Hi, I am new here too. But your question caught my eye.
I had a heart attack dec,13 2006 and I had just got married Oct,7 2006. They put a stent in my heart the whole right side of my heart died, untill stenting. and then had 2 stent put into my main artery's. ever since the heart attack I hardly rember alot of things, the kids say" mom I told you this morning!" And i don't remember, I sometimes don't remember doing something or buying something until kids tell me I did. SO your not alone!!!! nice to me you, my name is Helen

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Hello - By the way, it happened when I was 47 as well - that was 15 years ago. It was explained to me that when they re-introduce the blood to the system via the heart/lung machine that there are tiny air bubbles in the blood that they cannot avoid which are also introduced into the body. It affects your cognative skills such as math and language. I remember the first year or so that I knew things - such as math and words and I couldn't recall them. Later, memory did return but it took a while. It is bothersome during conversations and you feel lacking. Just rest assured that it will return with time. It happens to a lot of people.

I had understood that during the procedure knows as "beating heart" surgery (by-pass) that this phenomenon does not occur because you are not on a heart/lung machine.

Hopefully this will help to ease your mind. I know it's frustrating, but give it more time. AlaskaGirl

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By the way - I always called it "Swiss Cheese for Brains". It was like having holes in your brain and things just fell out. At least it got a laugh. AlaskaGirl

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Add me to the "i Don't remember club" I had 3 stents in Aug 06,By-pass in Dec 06 Four days later they had to go back in and removed a blood clot from my heart.My memory is awful.Some days is much worse than others.I think I get into a panic when I can't remember where I'm going or how to get home or my daughters names.Like you I love to read,but it has been a real struggle,but I just keep on trying.Sometimes I'll read the same page over and over again and eventually it makes sense.I have problems remember to take my meds,so now my husband calls during his lunch break to remind me.I was 44 when I had mine.I now say never again,I will take my chances.Hope you memory improves.

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Hi Deb,
" just purchased a Ninetendo DS system and two of their brain age games. Hopefully doing this daily can help my cog functions"

Please share with us your reviews of the brain age games. I'm not a gamer, but I'm intrigued by cog function enhancers of any sort.


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"Numbers began making sense to me before letters and words did. I remarked to a friend (and colleague) that the stats I was running made sense however my ability to narrate the stats was a struggle. She mentioned that my progress made sense to her because digits are more primary than alpha. "

I think you are onto something BIG here.....It was the same for me.....Numbers first, then words...

"There are lags in my speech that I did not experience prior. " Oh my, you could be my twin. To me, the lag is still so an intermittent stutter... I bought a handheld voice recorder and spoke into it on various subjects to see what others were hearing from me. And although I was feeling more and more stress working through the DID NOT appeat that way on the recorder playbacks. None of that compiling stress was apparent in my speech patterns. Yet it is there!

"One of my doctors (a rude SOB) said that 80% of CABG patients experience cognitive differences post-surgically and the other 20% were not smart enough to recognize the difference."

Did he explain the other 20% were doctors? (kidding)

"Depression, you bet. I am depressed for a number of reasons. Not the least of which is learning that I was never a candidate for by-pass surgery. I have small vessel disease."

I wish this were uncommon but it isn't. Hope you've found relief via drug therapy by this time.

Take good care,

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Welcome! You have been through a great deal and there are lots of amazing women here who will recognize your symptoms and share how they coped.

GLad you are still with us!!

Take good care,

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Heart sisters, Had open heart surgery 5yrs ago, did have memory lapses I would watch jeopardy, all the word games in Club pogo and interacting with others. My problem is losing my place in a conversation if interrupted. My big concern is the over re-action to stimus in both legs and right side body. I'm numb in places. Seeing a Neurologist, did a EMG to rule out Muscular Dsytrophy*and neuropathy. Nothing to report there. Now on to a EEG. One time the EP nurse stated could be an injury to the Thalamus gland but my cardiologist assured me no stroke occured to thalamus. Had complications after surgery. Worried about EEG. Had one when I was 10 or so but that was many many many moons ago. * carrier of Duchenne's MD.

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Wow, I am so glad this subject has come up on this site. I have been struggling with this since my cabgx4 April, 2008. I am an accountant/controller for a hospital and four rural health clinics. I returned to work six weeks after surgery, because physically my surgeon and cardio said I was capable. Boy were they wrong mentally. I struggled with the simplest journal entries. The next month, I would scratch my head and wonder why in the world did I do that. Yes, I would forget people's names. My boss would tell me, remember when I told you......., I begged to him to let me write down everything. Then in October, I returned to school to finish the final class that I had to drop when I had my heart attack and surgery. This course involved reading four chapters per week, studying for quizes and tests that were extensive essays. Class discussions were difficult as well, because I could not quickly jump on the word(s) I wanted to say to make my point. My professor noticed the change as well. It was a struggle, but I graduated with my MBA in December 2008. I managed to get a B in that class which was the same grade as the other students who were half my age, not married and did not suffer heart disease. My final GPA was 3.93 not bad for a 46 year old with heart disease.
Enough about me. The point I am making here, I struggle with this problem and yes it is worse when I am tired or stressed. I am learning to live with it. I scheduled difficult mental tasks early in the day. I am grateful school is behind me. My husband and I do weekly crossword puzzles together on Friday nights. I have read two books since I graduated in December. The Blue Cotton Gown and The Last Lecture. Both excellant books. Keep the wheels turning as best you can. Write thing downs as soon as the information comes across your brain. You spell check whenever it is available or have someone proof read something that is important. Try not to be too hard on yourself. Pushing up daisies would be our other alternative!

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Hey add me too... I had a CABG4 on June 19, 2008 and 2 sets of stents after that in the last 8 months. Today while at the CPA's office getting our taxes done, I was telling him about my heart attack and issues in the last year when all of a sudden I forgot what I was saying. I was explaining about the plavix and the protonix and I forgot the word plavix and had to say I'm sorry what was I talking about. It has happened quite often and my husband gets frustrated when I ask him something I just asked him a few minutes ago or I don't remember something he told me a few minutes ago. Could be why we are separated because he seems to not get it that I am not getting old and senile it's that after having open heart surgery things just don't fall into place as before. He on the other hand is younger and apparently not aging according to him. Uh huh.... I have a type A personality and I am very detail oriented and organized. Comes from a military background. Now I am using color cues...reminder notes and other helpers that I used to use with my younger daughter and her ADHD,Bi-Polar and ODD. Believe it or not they all help. Especially at work. I have one of the most prettiest clip board report sheets any nurse has seen. So maybe it will get straightened out or not, I will just take it one day at a time. OH and BTW do any of you know how to get this keyboard to type the letters I want it to. It seems to have a mind of it's own..... lol

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I have had this for over two years! My vision is the worst. I have been playing games, puzzles and trying to read. This has been a big problem for me. Doctors want to pass it off as depression, well yea I have that also because I feel crazy most of the time. Now my doctor wants me to go have a neuropsychological testing! Has anyone had this done and what kind of test do you have to take. He told me it would be from 9-4 and I laughed! I can't take anything for that long, get real. He said they can break it up if I get to tired. You think??? My other doctor told me that you can't pass or fail the test it just to see what is going on in your mind. My husband said they could save there money and come spend a couple of days with me! LOL! Bless his heart! Some days or worst than others do others find this to be true? I feel like I am outside of my body sometimes! I really have had to find humor in it. Can anyone tell me anything about these test! This should be a fun day!

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Hi Sherrie,

'Now I am using color cues...reminder notes and other helpers that I used to use with my younger daughter and her ADHD,Bi-Polar and ODD. Believe it or not they all help. Especially at work. I have one of the most prettiest clip board report sheets any nurse has seen."

Oh, I would love to hear about your color coding in more detail if you can spare the time. I'm sure you are very busy with work and daughter... plus all that time you spend retracing steps trying to remember what you just forgot (smile).

Can you believe how much company you have here in this memory alteration stuff? Don't feel isolated because it hits almost everyone here, whether they had heart attacks or by-pass on heart-lung machine.

take good care,

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Hey Peg,
My dr swears it's the meds & stress. He said the combo is horrid on the memory. I do have a tendancy to get stoopider (misspelling intended!!) when I'm under a great deal of stress so I think he's on to something....

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