Open-Heart Surgery

Care From the Heart, for Your Heart

Medicine, lifestyle changes and other non-invasive approaches may not be enough to treat certain cardiovascular conditions. In these cases, heart surgery may be recommended. Open-heart surgery is one treatment approach a surgeon may take. Other approaches may include off-pump and minimally invasive heart surgery.

At Piedmont Medical Center, we take matters of the heart very seriously. We thoroughly assess a patient’s overall health, heart problems and other factors to recommend the most appropriate treatment for him or her. Our team of cardiovascular experts is composed of cardiologists, heart specialists, cardiovascular surgeons and nurses.

We can perform:

  • Aortic root replacement
  • Aortic surgery
  • Atrial myxoma resection
  • Atrial septal defect repair
  • Carotid endarterectomy
  • Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG)
  • Foramen ovale repair
  • Heart valve repair/replacement surgery
  • Minimally invasive aortic valve replacement
  • Minimally invasive mitral valve repair or replacement
  • Off-pump procedure bypass
  • Pacemaker lead extraction
  • Pericardiectomy
  • Repair aortic aneurysm/dissection (ascending and descending)
  • Repair ventricular aneurysm
  • Robotic thoracic surgery
  • Thoracic endoscopy
  • Thoracic surgery
  • Thoracotomy
  • Valve repair/replacement
  • Vascular surgery
  • Ventricular septal defect repair
  • Video-assisted thoracic surgery

To have a more accurate picture of a patient’s condition, he or she may need to undergo a series of interviews, physical exams and diagnostic tests as recommended by the doctor, such as:

  • Aortogram
  • Cardiac CT scan
  • Cardiac MRI
  • Chest X-ray
  • Coronary angiography
  • Echocardiography
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • Stress test

Depending on the results of these assessments, some patients who qualify for heart surgery might need to undergo the procedure immediately. Others can plan ahead for their surgeries with their doctors and other healthcare team members.

What Is Open-Heart Surgery?

The open-heart procedure is when a surgeon makes a large cut in the patient’s chest to open the rib cage and access the heart for an operation. A cardiopulmonary bypass machine will be connected to the patient to continuously pump the heart and drain blood from it. This allows for bloodless heart surgery.

Open-heart surgery is performed during the following procedures:

  • Heart transplant
  • Heart valve replacement or repair
  • CABG procedure
  • Ventricular assist device (VAD) placement
  • Total artificial heart (TAH) placement

What Is Bypass Surgery?

Plaque is comprised of any substance made up of cholesterol, fat and other substances found in the blood. When plaque builds up in the coronary arteries, it can partially or completely block the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart.

A heart blockage can cause chest pain or angina. If you experience chest pain that does not go away, seek medical attention or contact 911 immediately, as you might be at increased risk of a heart attack.

Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery is a heart blockage treatment that can address plaque buildup. Performed via open-heart surgery, the CABG procedure creates an alternative route for blood to flow to the heart. This may improve the blood and oxygen flow to the heart, relieve chest pain and reduce the risk of a heart attack.

CABG surgery involves the use of grafts or veins and arteries taken from other parts of your body. This will not substantially affect the blood flow in the area where the grafts came from. A surgeon will use them to create a new blood passage around the clogged artery. If three coronary arteries must be addressed in a single operation, the procedure is called triple bypass surgery. The surgeons will perform quintuple open-heart bypass surgery if all five major heart arteries are affected.

What Is Minimally Invasive Heart Surgery?

This is when a surgeon makes small cuts on the chest’s side between the ribs. A patient may or may not have to be on a bypass machine during operation. This procedure is used for some maze and bypass surgeries, ICD or pacemaker insertion, heart valve repair and replacement or graft harvesting.

With robotic-assisted surgery, surgeons can perform minimally invasive heart surgery by controlling surgical tools from a computer. These surgical tools are placed in robotic arms that the surgeon can control.

How Long Does Open-Heart Surgery Take?

The duration of a heart procedure can depend on the type of procedure and the patient’s needs. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), coronary bypass surgery may take 3 to 6 hours.

During an open-heart procedure, the surgeon will make an incision along the middle of the chest that will go through the patient’s breastbone. The surgeon might perform either an on-pump or off-pump surgery. The heart surgeons at Piedmont Medical Center can perform both types of surgery.

With on-pump surgery, a bypass machine pumps the heart. This machine will also drain blood from this organ, remove carbon dioxide from the blood obtained, supply oxygen to the blood and return the blood to the body.

On the other hand, off-pump surgery does not involve the use of a bypass machine. Instead, a surgical team member will use a device to keep the heart steady while the surgeon operates. However, not all heart patients can qualify for off-pump heart surgery. Our healthcare team will thoroughly consider a patient’s heart problems, current health and other factors that might affect the surgery results.

How Long Does it Take to Recover From Open-Heart Surgery?

Individuals who need to undergo an open-heart surgery procedure might need to remain in the hospital for 7 to 10 days including the stay in the intensive care unit (ICU) after the operation. In the ICU, the patient will be attached to a breathing tube and a variety of monitoring equipment. A line that administers pain relief will also stay in the patient’s vein.

After ICU, the patient may need to stay in the hospital for a week before he or she gets released. Open-heart surgery recovery at home might take 4 to 6 weeks. During recovery, it is normal for a patient to experience some pain and fatigue. But if he or she starts having difficulty breathing, excessive sweating and fever, the patient must seek urgent care.

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