Facing heart surgery for yourself or a loved one is often a scary process – the heart is a critical organ and without it, we can’t survive. However, because the heart performs such an important function to survival, it is all the more crucial to keep it healthy and in strong shape.
Heart Surgery Procedures
There are many reasons a patient may need cardiac surgery and many different procedures one may undergo – while cardiac surgery does consistently require operating on the heart, it is not a one size fits all procedure. Heart surgery is not typically the first course of action to resolve a problem, but may become a solution if other treatments have not been effective or are not an option.
This procedure is performed to increase blood flow through a blocked artery which will increase the heart’s function while also reducing severe chest pains. It reduces the risk of heart attack and can also be used to open neck and brain arteries in order to reduce a patient’s risk of a stroke.
The procedure requires special tubing with an attached deflated “balloon” to be threaded up to the coronary arteries. The balloon is then inflated in order to widen artery areas that have reduced or blocked blood flow to the heart.
Artificial Heart Replacement
This procedure is used as an alternative to standard heart transplants which relocate a donated heart to the recipient. In live transplants, it is very difficult to find an available donor organ as well as to find one that is a tissue and blood match. Artificial heart replacements use a manmade mechanical heart that works through two batteries in order to replace a diseased heart with a healthy one.
Coronary bypass surgery is one of the most common and effective procedures to improve or correct blood flow to and from the heart. It reduced the risk of patient heart attack while improving the patient’s capacity for physical activity. By unblocking the flow of blood to the heart, the procedure relieves chest pain.
There are several avenues surgeons may take to complete a bypass, from minimally invasive procedures to on and off-pump surgeries. It is a type of open heart surgery as the surgeon needs access to the heart in order to open arteries and create new passages for blood to flow. The surgery relocates arteries or veins from other areas of the body – typically the chest, wrist, or leg – to create “grafts.” These grafts reroute blood around the clogged artery to improve blood flow and heart function.
This type of procedure is performed to increase the heart’s pumping motion. It is a more experimental procedure that uses skeletal muscles taken from the patient’s back or abdomen to wrap around a diseased heart. By adding muscle to support the heart, combined with an implanted device that is similar to a pacemaker, the surgery is able to boost the efficiency and effectiveness of the heart’s pumping motion.
Heart transplants are a very serious, very intense type of heart surgery that are performed only when there is no other option to repair a patient’s existing heart.
Patients undergo intense testing to ensure that they are able to undergo the surgery and to learn the blood and tissue typing which will indicate a patient’s likeliness for compatibility with the procedure and potential donor organ. The donor organ must come from a patient who is still living, but brain dead and on life support. The organs and tissues must be a match.
Minimally Invasive Surgery
Minimally invasive surgery provides an alternative to full open heart surgery which requires a large eight to 10 inch incision down the chest before opening the breast bone. Rather than a large cut, the surgeon will make a series of small incisions that align with the patient’s ribcage openings. The surgeon then accesses the heart through these small openings to operate on the affected veins or arteries.
This type of procedure manages blockages of blood flow to the heart and improves the supply of blood and oxygen flowing to the heart. It reduces the patient’s risk of heart attack and relieves chest pains.
Radio Frequency Ablation
This type of procedure is a preferred treatment option for correcting heart arrhythmias. The surgeon operates using a catheter with an electrode on the end, watching X-rays on a screen for visual guidance. The surgeon will place the catheter at the exact place within the heart in which cells produce the electrical signals that stimulate the abnormal heart rhythm. By transmitting a mild, painless radiofrequency energy to the pathway, the procedure destroys carefully selected heart muscle cells in a very small area (about 1/5 of an inch) to slow the beats and regulate the heart.
A stent is a wire mesh tube that is used to prop an artery open during heart surgery and that permanently remains following the surgery. Stents require open heart surgery and are used to improve blood flow to the heart.
Risks involved in this procedure includes bleeding, infection, irregular heartbeats, and stroke. The risk is higher based on age and gender – risk is higher for the elderly and for females. Patients with additional diseases or conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, lung disease, or peripheral arterial disease, also are at higher risk for complications from the surgery.