Open-Heart Surgery

Open-heart surgery may be recommended if medical and noninvasive approaches are not an option for treating some cardiovascular conditions.

Delray Medical Center’s open-heart surgery program includes an experienced team of cardiovascular experts, including cardiovascular surgeons, cardiologists, cardiac nurses, nurse practitioners and experienced technicians. We perform off-pump coronary artery bypass, graft surgery and more such as the following:

  • Aortic Root Replacement
  • Aortic Surgery
  • Atrial Myxoma Resection
  • Atrial Septal Defect Repair
  • Carotid Endarterectomy
  • Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery 
  • 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

What Is Open-Heart Surgery?

Cardiac surgeons perform open-heart surgery to help treat people with coronary heart disease and improve blood supply to the heart muscle. Open-heart surgery is a major operation that is also used to:

  • Repair or replace heart valves, which control blood flow through the heart
  • Repair abnormal or damaged structures in the heart
  • Implant medical devices that help control the heartbeat or support heart function and blood flow
  • Replace a damaged heart with a healthy heart from a donor

How Is Open-Heart Surgery Performed?

Open-heart surgery, also called traditional heart surgery, involves opening the chest wall to operate on the heart muscle, valves, arteries or the aorta and other large arteries connected to the heart.

The following are the most common types of open-heart surgery:

Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting 

Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG, pronounced as “cabbage”) is the most common type of surgery done on adults to help improve blood flow to the heart. During this procedure, your surgeon will make a surgical cut in the middle of your chest to create an opening. This allows your surgeon to access your heart and aorta. Most people who undergo CABG are connected to a heart-lung bypass machine or bypass pump where the heart is stopped while connected to the machine. The bypass pump does both the work of the heart and lungs during surgery. 

The procedure may also be done while the heart is beating and without using the heart-lung bypass machine. This is called off-pump coronary artery bypass.

Your doctor may use a vein or artery from another part of your body, such as a blood vessel in your chest or the radial artery in your wrist, and use it to detour (or graft) around the blocked area in your artery. 

After the graft has been created, your surgeon will close your breastbone with wires. The surgical cut will then be closed with stitches and you will be taken to the intensive care unit for observation. The procedure may take four to six hours.

Heart Valve Repair or Replacement

The blood that flows between different chambers of the heart and flows out of your heart and into large arteries must flow through a heart valve. The flaps of these valves, called leaflets, open to allow blood flow and then close to keep blood from flowing backward. Heart valve surgery is performed when these leaflets do not open as wide as they should or if they do not close tightly.

Surgery may be performed through robot-assisted surgery or through a catheter inserted through the skin. This is called percutaneous surgery. If your valve is too damaged, valve replacement surgery will most likely be recommended. Your new valve may be mechanical, which is made of man-made materials such as stainless steel, titanium or ceramic. Another option is a biological valve made of human or animal tissue. These valves may last for 12 to 15 years. 

Corrective Surgery for Congenital Heart Disease

Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defects according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The condition may vary from mild to severe. The defect may be a small hole in the heart or a missing or poorly formed part of the heart. Corrective heart surgery is performed in the first year of life if the defect could harm your child's long-term health or well-being.

Treatments vary depending on the type or severity of the defect. It may take one or more surgeries to fully repair your child’s heart or blood vessels. Some conditions can be treated using cardiac catheterization. This procedure involves threading a long tube through the blood vessels into the heart to enable your doctor to take measurements and pictures, perform tests or repair the problem.

Although sometimes the heart defect cannot be fully repaired, this procedure may improve your child’s blood flow and the way the heart functions.

Minimally Invasive Heart Surgery

Minimally invasive heart surgery is a type of surgical approach that involves making smaller incisions in the side of the chest between the ribs without having to open the breastbone to reach the heart, which may offer less pain and scarring, and a faster return to work and activities than the traditional methods. 

Several types of heart procedures can be performed minimally invasively, including:

  • Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery
  • Mitral Valve Repair
  • Tricuspid Repair and Replacement
  • Aortic Valve Replacement
  • Maze Procedure for Atrial Fibrillation
  • Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) Repair
  • Patent Foraman Ovale (PFO) Repair

How Do You Prepare for Open-Heart Surgery?

Your healthcare provider will provide detailed instructions. Typical information to help you prepare for surgery includes:

  • Eating your evening meal the day before your surgery but make sure to not consume any food or drink after midnight

  • Having all personal information on hand such as your list of medications (including over-the-counter medications, vitamins and herbs), recent illness (including herpes outbreak, cold, flu or fever) and insurance information

  • Taking a bath the night before the surgery. Your doctor may ask you to use an antibacterial soap to help lower the risk of an infection after surgery

  • Avoiding smoking and not taking blood-thinning medications (aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen) two weeks before surgery

  • Informing your doctor about your typical alcohol consumption to prevent alcohol withdrawal that may cause life-threatening complications after open-heart surgery such as seizures and tremors

Recovery and Pain Management

Taking care of yourself is an important part of the recovery process. Make sure to regularly check your incisions and report signs of infection to your doctor, such as oozing, redness, warmth along the incision site or if you develop fever. Take your prescriptions as recommended to manage pain and to decrease the likelihood of blood clots or pneumonia and get enough sleep. 

Recovery may take up to six months before you notice the full benefit of the surgery but grafts can work for many years. Your doctor may recommend a specific cardiac rehabilitation program that can offer specialist support and help with other aspects of your recovery. 

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