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Open Heart Surgery

While the thought of open heart surgery can be worrisome, this operation is performed very routinely in the U.S. Today surgeons are able to correct congenital cardiac abnormalities, repair and replace defective heart valves, re-route blood flow around blocked vessels and perform other life-saving procedures. While each surgery has some risk involved, which your surgeon will discuss with you, most patients tolerate these procedures quite well and recover quickly.

Coronary Artery


Bypass surgery is recommended when coronary arteries become blocked due to plaque build-up and cannot be opened through other methods such as medication or angioplasty. This is usually due to location or severity of the blockage.


During bypass surgery an artery or vein is taken from one part of the body and used to bypass a blocked coronary artery on the heart. This bypass, known as a graft, serves as a bridge for blood to flow around the blockage. The surgeon will usually use the internal mammary artery, located under your left breastbone, for one of your grafts. Additionally, the saphenous vein from one or both of your legs may be used if further grafts are needed. It may also be necessary to use the radial artery from one or both of your forearms in certain circumstances.

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Valve Surgery 

Your Heart Valves


Your heart has four valves, which act as one-way doors allowing blood to flow in and out of the heart's chambers every time the heart beats. Valve surgery is needed when a heart valve doesn't open or close properly. This can occur because of damage or scarring by infection, rheumatic fever or birth defects. Most often the aortic or mitral valves are the valves affected.


Valvular Problems


Valves can have trouble opening or closing. Calcium deposits and scarring can cause a valve to become stiff and not open properly, a condition called stenosis. As the opening of the valve becomes smaller, not enough blood gets through. This can cause the heart muscle to become thickened as the heart struggles to beat against the damaged valve. Symptoms of this condition can include   dizziness or shortness of breath.


Insufficiency or regurgitation results when a valve doesn't close properly, allowing blood to leak back through in the wrong direction. The structures that support the valve are sometimes weak, loose or torn. Sometimes the valve itself is weakened. If you have regurgitation, you may have been told you have a murmur.

Repair or Replace


Valves can be repaired or replaced. Before you go to surgery your cardiac surgeon will discuss which option is best for you. If replacement is needed there are different types of valves that may be better for your condition. Valves can be made of tissue from animals or human donation (bioprosthetic) or be made of synthetic materials (mechanical).

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