Consider yourself lucky to need heart surgery now and not more than 20 years ago. It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that the heart-lung bypass machine, which takes the place of your heart and lungs and keeps you alive during the operation, could be used safely. This machine plus improved surgical techniques and medicines, more sophisticated monitoring machines and more experienced surgeons have made open-heart surgeries widely accepted and much safer today.
The following are brief /explanations of certain kinds of open-heart surgery:
- Coronary artery bypass
- When your heart muscle does not get the blood and oxygen it needs because one or more or your arteries are clogged up, your surgeon may recommend coronary artery bypass surgery. Part of a vein from your leg (saphenous vein) or part of an artery from your chest wall (internal mammary artery) will be used to bypass the part of your coronary artery that is blocked. This new bypass section will improve the flow of blood and oxygen through the artery. It is quite common to have as many as four or five bypasses done at one time. Neither your chest wall nor your leg will be harmed as a result of the vein or artery being removed.
- Heart valve repair or replacement
- Your heart has four valves, one for each chamber of your heart. Each time your heart beats, these valves open and close to let blood in and out of the chambers. One or more of these valves may become damaged from a birth defect, scarring from rheumatic fever or an infection. If medicine can’t correct the problem, your doctor may recommend surgery to repair or replace the valve.
- Congenital heart defect repair
- A congenital heart defect is a condition that you were born with. About one-quarter of adults who have a congenital heart defect have a condition called atrial septal defect. This is really a hole in the wall (atria) that separates the two upper chambers of your heart. This causes blood with oxygen and blood without oxygen to mix together. Usually, too much blood from the left atrium goes into the right atrium and then into the lungs. During surgery for this condition, the hole is closed.
- Heart muscle disease surgery
- There are different kinds of heart muscle diseases. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle that makes all or part of it thicker or overgrown. When your heart muscle gets thicker, it affects blood flow into and out of the heart. Sometimes, surgery can help this condition. If your septum (the wall between your ventricles) is so thick that it sticks out and blocks the flow of blood to the aorta and the rest of your body, a surgeon can remove part of the thickened septum so that blood can again flow freely to the aorta.
- Pericarditis surgery
- Pericarditis is when the sac (pericardium) that surrounds the heart becomes inflamed. Although it’s not common, this condition can keep coming back. If this happens, surgeons may remove the entire sac from around the heart. This usually gets rid of any symptoms (like pain and irritation) without causing any harm to the heart.