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What You Need to Know About Open-Heart Surgery

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There are countless reasons why individuals might have to undergo open-heart surgery. Open heart surgery is any type of surgery where the chest is cut open and surgery is performed on the muscles, valves, or arteries of the heart. Open-heart surgery is sometimes called traditional heart surgery, as many new heart procedures developed can be performed using cardiac surgery instruments and small incisions. As a result, the term “open-heart surgery” can often be misleading.

Reasons for Open Heart Surgery

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), a coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) is the most common type of open-heart surgery performed on adults. This procedure involves grafting a healthy artery or vein to a blocked coronary artery. This, in turn, allows the grafted artery to “bypass” the blocked artery, allowing fresh blood to travel to the heart. A CABG may be necessary for individuals with coronary heart disease.

Other common conditions that require open-heart surgery include:

  • Repairing or replacing heart valves, allowing blood to travel through the heart
  • Repairing damaged or abnormal areas of the heart
  • Implanting medical devices that help the heart beat properly
  • Heart transplant

Risk Associated with Open-Heart Surgery

As with most other surgical procedures, open-heart surgery has associated risks. Some of the most common risks include:

  • Chest wound infection (this is more common in patients with obesity or diabetes or those who have had a CABG procedure before)
  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Lung or kidney failure
  • Chest pain and low fever
  • Memory loss
  • Blood clot
  • Blood loss
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Pneumonia

During surgery, the heart-lung bypass machine is sometimes necessary. According to the Heart and Vascular Center at the University of Chicago Medicine, the use of this machine is associated with increased risks. Among these risks are stroke and neurological problems.

While there are risks associated with open-heart surgery, having the procedure done can improve the patients’ quality of life. With the appropriate cardiac surgery instruments, it is easier for physicians and surgeons to effectively perform the procedure. Be sure to discuss any concerns you might have about the procedure with your doctor beforehand.