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When Do Doctors Suggest Open Heart Surgery?

Updated on March 22, 2016

Heart diseases are one of the deadliest problems currently attacking the human kind. Open heart surgery, is one of the procedures followed to cure a particular abnormality or a condition of the heart. In India alone, around half a million, heart surgeries are conducted to correct problems in adults as well as children.

What is Open Heart Surgery?

Open heart surgery is suggested depending upon the condition of the patient. The final call is with the heart specialist or the cardiologist who takes the decision after examining the reports of tests and scanning.

In an open-heart surgery, the chest is cut opened for operating the heart or its surrounding arteries. More often, the cardiac surgeons opt to correct a type of severe disease in the coronary arteries supplying blood to the heart.

The doctors may also take the decision if the patient is in need of heart repair or replacement of heart valves or for fixing structural heart defects.

How Is Open Heart Surgery Carried Out?

During this type of surgery, the heart of the patient is taken out of the body and is kept on the heart-lung bypass machine.

It means that this machine performs the heart’s function for the body and provides oxygen rich blood to the heart and lungs. The heart, when taken out, is stopped using a solution cardioplegia. It is high-potassium, cold solution that protects the heart muscles during the time when it is in non-working state.

The heart is then opened and repair is carried out in a still, bloodless environment. In very rare conditions, the heart is operated by keeping it on a cardiopulmonary bypass machine and is operated while still beating. However, the heart is empty without any blood. Such open heart surgery is preferred when the right side needs repairing, and no holes are present on the right sides and left sides of the heart.

More often, only a clear-cut is required for the operation. However, open heart surgeries can be complicated if the patient is suffering from complex defects requiring different possible approaches for either palliation or correction.

Such complicated surgeries are carried out by the input of many experts. Irrespective of how good the pre-operative assessment has been, the anatomy of a heart is never really understood unless the surgeon gets to look at it. Hence, the course of the operation might change depending upon the intra-operative findings.

Open Heart

When Is Open Heart Surgery Advised?

This type of surgery is advised for treating various types of heart conditions.

Multivessel Disease

It is commonly advised to patients with multivessel atherosclerotic disease and those who are suffering from heart attack or angina.

Valvular disease

During the surgery, typically the mitral and the aortic valves are either repaired or replaced. The repairing or replacement is advised when these valves either get blocked, stenotic or start leaking. Sometimes the surgery is advised when the valves become regurgitant leading to symptoms of heart failure necessitating heart surgery.

In such a condition, the chest including the sternum or breastbone is opened with a cut to expose the heart. Usually, valve replacement requires smaller chest incisions and such less invasive surgeries are known as ‘keyhole’ surgeries.


An open-heart surgery is also recommended for arrhythmias or irregular heart rates. More commonly it is advised for atrial fibrillation.

Other Reasons Necessitating Open Heart Surgery

Other conditions necessitating this type of surgery include septal defects in adults, congenital lesions in children and aortic surgery for aneurysms.

Although open heart surgery is a serious operation, with the advancement of medical sciences, risks have been minimized. Today’s doctors use of highly scientific and evolved instruments and machines for performing the operation. Hence, almost all the heart surgeries are successful, and there is no need to worry much about the outcome.

Aortic Value


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