Open heart surgery is any surgery where the chest is opened and surgery is performed on the heart muscle, valves, arteries, or other heart structures. The term "open" refers to the chest, not the heart itself. The heart may or may not be opened, depending on the type of surgery.
A heart-lung mahcine (also called cardiopulmonary bypass) is usually used during conventional open heart surgery. It helps provide oxygen-rich blood to the brain and other vital organs.
The definition of open heart surgery has become confusing with new procedures being performed on the heart through smaller incisions. There are some new surgical procedures being performed that are done with the heart still beating.
Minimally invasive heart surgery (MIDCAB, OPCAB, RACAB), including robotic-assisted heart surgery, is still considered open heart surgery. However, these procedures are being used in some patients as an alternative to open heart surgery requiring the heart-lung machine.
Recovery from open heart surgery can be easy or difficult, depending on how healthy you were before the surgery. Pain medication is usually prescribed to help ease the pain from the cut in your chest.
Review Date: 5/6/2009
Reviewed By: Robert A. Cowles, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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