What are the Different Types of Heart Surgery Procedures?

Florence J. Tipton

There are two primary types of heart surgery procedures that are performed to repair damage as a result of a heart defect or disease. Bypass surgery is performed when a patient’s arteries become blocked as a result of plaque build up that restricts the flow of blood to the heart. Heart valve surgery is usually performed to correct a heart valve disease where the heart valve does not open or close normally. Both of these heart surgery procedures may entail using a traditional or minimally invasive surgery method. A patient’s condition typically dictates which of the heart surgery procedures is necessary.

The anatomy of a heart attack. Surgery can be used to bypass the blocked artery.
The anatomy of a heart attack. Surgery can be used to bypass the blocked artery.

Generally, a person who undergoes bypass or heart valve surgery is a smoker, has a history of high blood pressure, or consumes foods high in fat. The patient typically has complaints about chest pain and other symptoms that could mean a heart disease is present. In these cases, a doctor may order an angiogram, which is an X-ray used to reveal blocked arteries. If so, a heart bypass surgery is performed to remove or circumvent blockage in the arteries. Without undergoing some type of heart surgery procedure, the patient is susceptible to having a heart attack from the decrease of oxygen and blood flowing through the heart.

The two types of heart surgeries are bypass surgeries and heart valve surgeries.
The two types of heart surgeries are bypass surgeries and heart valve surgeries.

Bypass surgery is considered one of the major heart surgery procedures and can last for several hours. In this surgery, the surgeon makes a deep cut into the patient’s breastbone to access the arteries and the patient is hooked up to a heart monitoring machine. The direction of the affected blood vessels is changed to restore a normal flow of blood to the heart.

A scalpel is a small, sharp knife that is used in surgeries to make incisions.
A scalpel is a small, sharp knife that is used in surgeries to make incisions.

With the minimally invasive bypass procedure, the surgeon cuts a smaller portion of the chest and the heart is not supported by a heart monitoring machine. Instead, surgical staff may use a medication to reduce the rate of the patient’s heartbeat. With the minimally invasive surgery, a patient’s recovery time is reduced because trauma to the body is not as severe as with traditional surgery through the loss of blood.

Bypass surgery involves opening a patient's chest to access the heart.
Bypass surgery involves opening a patient's chest to access the heart.

Heart valve surgeries can also be either traditional or minimally invasive heart surgery procedures that correct one of four damaged heart valves. Traditional heart valve surgery is also known as open heart surgery where the heart surgeon opens the chest to expose the heart and repair the damaged heart valves. A minimally invasive heart valve surgery involves a mini-incision to the breast bone under the heart muscle. This incision gives the surgeon access to the damaged heart valve that may not open or close properly, causing blood to leak and put more strain on the heart. In cases where the damage is extensive, the valves might have to be replaced.

During surgery, staff may use medications to slow a patient's heartbeat.
During surgery, staff may use medications to slow a patient's heartbeat.
A patient's condition usually indicates which kind of heart surgery he or she will need.
A patient's condition usually indicates which kind of heart surgery he or she will need.
The sternum is broken during open heart surgery.
The sternum is broken during open heart surgery.

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