Open-heart surgery is an approach that involves cutting the breastbone and connecting the heart to a device called a heart-lung bypass. Open heart surgery is used to treat heart problems such as coronary artery disease and heart valve disease.
Rather than being a specific treatment, an open-heart approach can be used in a number of surgeries, including coronary artery bypass grafting, heart valve repair or replacement, and heart transplantation, as well as place of devices to help this organ, such as the ventricle. arterial devices and total artificial hearts.
Diagnosis related to open heart surgery
Open heart surgeries are used to treat several different and often very serious heart problems.
coronary artery disease
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is defined as the hardening and narrowing of the arteries of the heart. It can cause heart failure (the heart becomes unable to pump enough blood) as well as heart attack (blockage of an artery leading to the heart). Treatment approaches depend on the progression of coronary artery disease or associated conditions.
Coronary artery disease is also called coronary artery disease.
Coronary artery disease, heart failure, and heart attack can initially be treated using other methods, such as lifestyle changes, stenting, or minimally invasive approaches. Open-heart surgery is indicated in cases of coronary artery disease in which multiple coronary arteries are severely blocked, or when stenting cannot be used to treat coronary artery blockages.
A diagnosis of coronary artery disease, heart valve disease or one of their related conditions is serious. Your health care provider will assess a number of important factors before opting for an open-heart surgery approach. These include:
- Age: Open-heart procedures may not be appropriate or may pose increased risks for elderly patients.
- Severity and location of blockages: For more advanced coronary heart disease, especially cases resulting in heart failure or heart attack, the number of vessels involved and their anatomical locations determine whether open-heart surgery is indicated rather than stenting.
- Emergency: Open-heart approaches can also be used in emergency situations, such as a heart attack.
- Lifestyle factors: Given the influence of diet, exercise, and personal habits on heart health and response to surgery, lifestyle factors may need to be considered when making a decision.
- Health: Some health factors that may contraindicate surgery include taking insulin for type II diabetes, risk of stroke, propensity for infections, or increased risk of complications from surgery.
Tests and laboratories
As with all surgeries, proper assessment and diagnosis are critical to success. Your health care provider’s assessment will focus on heart, lung, and vascular (vein and artery) health. The specific approaches vary depending on the case, but generally include:
- Physical assessment and medical history: In non-emergency cases, the first step in diagnosis will involve a physical assessment of vital signs – factors such as pulse and respiration – as well as answering questions about health status and symptoms. A medical history assessment will also be performed.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG): ECG machines are able to measure the electrical activity of the heart, allowing the practitioner to understand where, precisely, there are problems. This means determining, for example, the magnitude and extent of coronary heart disease in those affected.
- Cardiac stress test: Sometimes the health care provider will need to see your heart at work and assess the activity while you are working out and exercising. Several imaging techniques can be used, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), echocardiography (see below) or cardiac nuclear scintigraphy (the use of a radioactive element to increase the ability to imaging), to help your medical team learn more about the specific problem (or problems) involved.
- echocardiography: This imaging approach uses sound waves to produce a real-time video of your heart in action. Not only does this allow the surgeon to see the size and shape of your heart, but they can also locate areas of restricted blood flow as well as coronary muscle activity.
- Coronary Angiography: In this approach, a contrast medium is injected into the coronary arteries using a specialized tube. The chest area is then x-rayed, with the dye allowing healthcare providers to further assess blood flow and the presence of any blockages in the resulting image.
A word from Verywell
There is no doubt that a diagnosis like coronary artery disease or heart valve disease can be shocking; for many, this is when they realize how important heart function is.
That said, medical technology is constantly evolving and is now better than it has ever been, and those who operate on the heart are very highly specialized and trained.
Notably, open-heart surgeries are the most common approaches to heart problems, and they are very successful. It is precisely because these approaches have been used for so long – the first open-heart surgery was performed in 1893 (it was a success) – that you can be assured that you will be in good hands in the 21st century.