Open Heart Surgery

Also Called Cardiac Surgery

Open Heart SurgeryIf you’ve had a heart attack or diagnosed that you had experienced a silent heart attack know that you are not alone more than half a million-heart surgeries are performed each year.

There are a few different approaches Cardiac Surgeons can use to operate on the heart, depending on the patient’s general health and heart problem.  These include open-heart surgery, off-pump surgery and minimally invasive heart surgery

Open-heart surgery is defined by any kind of surgery where the surgeon makes a large incision in the chest to operate on the heart. “Open” refers to the chest, not the heart, but depending on the type of surgery, the surgeon may open the heart too.

Once the heart is exposed, the patient is hooked up to a heart-lung bypass machine that takes over the pumping action of the heart.  Meanwhile, blood is moved away from the heart, allowing the surgeon to operate on a heart without blood flowing through it and that is not beating.

What Does Heart Surgery Treat?

Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG)

The most common type of open-heart surgery is coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) used to treat coronary artery disease.  CABG is used to improve the flow of blood to the heart.  With coronary artery disease, plague can build up in the arteries that bring oxygen rich blood to the heart.  Over time, this plaque can harden and rupture, and if this happens, a blood clot can form on its surface.  If the blood clot is large enough, then this can prevent blood flow through a coronary artery, which is the most common cause of a heart attack.

During CABG surgery, a healthy vein or artery is connected to the blocked artery. Then the healthy vein bypasses the blocked portion, allowing a new path of blood flow to the heart.  During one surgery, one or several veins can by bypassed blocked coronary arteries.

Heart Valve Repair or Removal

Another reason for open-heart surgery can be to repair or replace the heart’s valves.  For the heart to work well, the heart’s valve’s work to make sure blood only flows in one direction.  This is done through the valve’s flaps called “leaflets.”  The leaflets control blood from flowing only into one chamber at a time, and then they close to prevent that blood from flowing backwards.

Heart valve repair surgery is performed to help the leaflets that don’t open as wide as they should, as well as to fix valves that don’t close as tightly as they should. Both of these repairs help regulate that enough blood is flowing through the valve, as well as regulating that blood doesn’t leak back out of a valve that isn’t closed tightly enough.

If a replacement valve is needed, surgeons will implant a man-made biological valve.  Currently, open-heart surgery, rather than non-invasive surgery, is the typical way to treat a valve that needs repair or needs to be replaced, although, if the risks for the candidate are too high, they may use the non-invasive approach.

Risks of Open Heart Surgery

Recovery After Open Heart Surgery

Recovery time at the hospital usually requires a day or more in the Hospital’s ICU (intensive care unit).  You may also have an IV to help give you fluids until you are ready to drink.  An oxygen mask may be used after the surgery as well to give you extra oxygen until it is no longer needed.

After the ICU, you will spend several days in another part of the hospital to monitor your heart rate and blood pressure and breathing before going home.

Once home, you may feel some muscle and chest pain, r swelling around the incision area.  Other effects post surgery may include trouble sleeping, constipation, and loss of appetite, but these should go away after time.

Ongoing Care

Doctor check ups will include blood tests of echocardiography or stress tests to help ensure your heart is working correctly.  The doctor may have you on a blood thinning medication as well.  Other lifestyle changes may include a change in diet, quitting smoking and staying physically active.

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