Heart Surgery Procedures

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Today's Heart Surgery Procedures

In the U.S. heart disease is the No.1 killer of both men and women and each day heart surgery procedures are performed on thousands of people.

Heart surgery procedures can be classified into two main categories. These are Minimally invasive heart surgery and Invasive or open heart surgery.

Minimally invasive heart surgery procedures are so called if the extent of the surgical incision is limited, allowing access to the heart without stopping it, or without separating the sternum from the ribcage, or if the surgery is done without a using a heart-lung machine. Minimally invasive heart surgery procedures include:

Multi-vessel coronary artery by-pass grafting (CABG)
Aortic valve replacement (AVR)
Mitral valve repair or replacement (MVR)
Congenital heart defect surgeries such as atrial septal defect closure, ventricular septal defect surgery and tetralogy of fallot surgery
Maze heart surgery that treats atrial fibrillation
Inserting pacemakers

Robot-assisted minimally invasive heart surgery procedures are still under development. In this approach the surgical tools are attached to thin robotic arms which are computer controlled by the surgeon. The surgeon is always in control of the robotic arms which mimic his hand and wrist movements but more precisely than the surgeons’ natural hand and wrist movement allowing him to perform very intricate and precise surgery. The robotic arms do not move on their own. Heart surgery procedures that can be performed by robots are CABG and catheter ablation. Advantages of robot-assisted procedures include less pain, scarring and infections.

Minimally invasive heart surgery procedures are an alternative to open heart surgery with many advantages such as; shorter recovery time and less long term pain for the patient, lower risk of complications and infection, less scarring and surgical trauma for the patient who can start his cardiac rehabilitation program earlier. However there are also risks heart surgery risks associated with these procedures such as; excessive bleeding, infection, damage to nerve, bones and muscles, lung complications, heart attack, stroke and even death. Patients with a history of heart disease or previous heart surgery are not suitable candidates for minimally invasive heart surgery procedures.

Open heart surgery, is the most invasive of the heart surgery procedures. It involves the surgeon making a large incision to separate the breastbone from the ribcage so that he can operate on the heart. Note that ‘open’ refers to the opening of the chest cavity and not the heart but depending on the type of the procedure the surgeon may also open the heart. Open heart surgery procedures include heart transplants, valve repair and replacement surgeries, bypass surgeries to repair blocked arteries and atrial fibrillation treatments.

Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) is increasingly being carried out using the beating heart or off-pump heart surgery approach which is like the conventional open heart surgery except the heart-lung bypass machine is not used. However, many factors are considered in deciding whether a heart patient is suitable for this procedure. These factors include the type of heart disease, as well as overall health and age of the patient.

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