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Open heart surgery

Definition

Open heart surgery is any surgery where the chest is opened and surgery is performed on the heart muscle, valves, arteries, or other heart structures (such as the aorta). The term "open" means that the chest is "cut" open.

A heart-lung machine (also called cardiopulmonary bypass) is usually used during open heart surgery. While the surgeon works on the heart, the machine helps provide oxygen-rich blood to the brain and other vital organs.

The definition of open heart surgery has become confusing with new procedures being performed on the heart through smaller incisions. There are some new surgical procedures being done with the heart still beating.

Newer techniques allow heart surgery to be done through much smaller surgical cuts than the large cut needed for open surgery.

  • Your heart surgeon will make a 2-inch to 5-inch-long surgical cut in the chest wall. Muscles in the area will be divided so your surgeon can reach the heart. The surgeon can repair or replace a valve or perform bypass surgery.
  • During endoscopic surgery, your surgeon makes one to four small holes in your chest. Then your surgeon uses special instruments and a camera to perform the surgery.
  • During robot-assisted valve surgery, the surgeon makes two to four tiny cuts (about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch) in your chest. The surgeon uses a special computer to control robotic arms during the surgery. The surgeon sees a three-dimensional view of the surgery on the computer. This method is very precise.

You will not need to be on a heart-lung machine for these types of surgery, but your heart rate will be slowed with medicine or a mechanical device.

See also:

Alternative Names

Heart surgery - open


Review Date: 5/17/2010
Reviewed By: Shabir Bhimji, MD, PhD, Specializing in Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, Midland, TX. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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