Open heart surgery is any surgery in which the chest is opened and surgery is done on the heart muscle, valves, arteries, or other parts of the heart (such as the aorta). The term "open" means that the chest is "cut" open.
The definition of open heart surgery has become less clear. New procedures are being done on the heart through smaller cuts. Some new procedures are being done while the heart is still beating.
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A heart-lung machine is used in most cases during open heart surgery. While the surgeon works on the heart, the machine helps send oxygen-rich blood to the brain and other organs.
You will not need to be on a heart-lung machine for types of surgery using smaller cuts. However, your heart rate will be slowed with medicine or a mechanical device. If there is a problem with these procedures, the surgeon may have to open the chest to do the surgery.
Heart surgery - open
Gopaldas RR, Chu, D, Bakaeen FG, et al. Acquired Heart Disease: Coronary Insufficiency. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2012:chap 60.
Updated by: Norman S. Kato, MD, Surgeon with the Cardiac Care Medical Group, Encino, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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