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Facts about Open Heart Surgery

Gaynor Borade
An open heart surgery is also referred to as cardiac surgery. The procedure may also include heart transplantation. This story equips you with the facts about open heart surgery.
An open heart surgery is performed as a part of the treatment, related to complications that set in due to ischemic heart disease, congenital heart disease, or valvular heart disease. Records reveal that the earliest pericardium operations were performed as early as the 19th century.
Surgeons on record included Dr. Francisco Romero, Dr. Henry Dalton, and Dr. Dominique Jean Larrey. Dr. Ludwig Rehn of Germany is credited with the first successful open heart surgery without complications, on September 7, 1896.
Surgery for repair of aortic coarctation and creation of the Blalock-Taussig shunt soon became common by the first half of the nineteenth century.
The operations included measures to palpate the damaged mitral valve, remove portions of the mitral valve, resection of the infundibular muscle stenosis, and division of the stenosed pulmonary valve. In 1952, Dr. C. Walton Lillehei and Dr. F. John Lewis performed the first successful intracardiac correction.


  • This surgery involves the opening of the chest cavity. Thus, the term 'open heart' actually refers to the chest.
  • The use of hypothermia is limited according to the complexity of intracardiac repair involved. The 'controlled cross-circulation technique', extracorporeal circulation via oxygenators, and pump-oxygenators were part of the trial and error applications, used by a number of surgeons across the globe.
  • In all these applications, the primary aim is to stabilize the beating of the heart to achieve a near-still work area. This helps to ward off the postperfusion syndrome.
  • Patients have successfully recovered in a matter of weeks, with improved health.

Other Options

This surgery can be a little risky for older people or people having a medical history. However, there have been innovations in this process too, which can be safe for older patients as well.
They addressed the complications of congenital heart defect with the help of hypothermia. The first surgery under local anesthesia was performed by Dr. Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Vishnevskiy of the Soviet Union.
  • The latest trend is the off-pump bypass surgery. This method involves bypass surgery of the coronary artery, without cardiopulmonary bypass.
  • Another technique is also referred to as 'robot-assisted' heart surgery. The machine used to perform the surgery is controlled by the surgeon. The main advantage is that, the dimension of the incision made, is greatly reduced.
  • One of the best procedures is the minimally invasive heart surgery. Here, surgeons operate between the ribs without splitting the breastbone (sternotomy), which results in less pain and a quicker recovery.
  • Even within this category, there are various operations , like aortic valve surgery, mitral valve surgery, tricuspid valve surgery, atrioventricular canal defect, atrial septal defect closure, etc.


This operation has greatly reduced mortality rates. However, the major concerns remain neurological damage, stroke, neurocognitive deficits, and postperfusion syndrome. The surgery involves the use of a heart-lung machine to support blood circulation, while the surgery is performed on the arteries or the heart itself.
There are a number of complications that are known to set in, due to a decrease in the pulse rate and low blood pressure. Patients are known to succumb to transient ischemic attacks and complications such as internal bleeding and infection.
  • In the coronary artery bypass graft, the arteries that get clogged with a plaque build-up, are replaced by healthy blood vessels from another part of the body.
  • In dedicated heart valve procedures, the catheter-based procedure involves the correction of the defective valve via replacement with a mechanical or biological substitute.
  • Transplants are surgeries, wherein the organ is replaced with a healthy substitute from an organ donor.
  • This surgery is also performed to address and remove the causes of heart attack or heart failure, atrial fibrillation, tumor, congenital heart disease, and cardiac trauma.


This procedure successfully corrects the congenital defect of the organ, replaces defective valves, and repairs blocked arteries. However, in a coronary artery bypass graft surgery, sometimes, a second surgery is required if restenosis sets in.
The surgery has become fairly common, with an increased survival rate. Nevertheless, the risk factor is definitely higher in the case of older people, and those with related medical conditions of a serious nature.
Bear in mind, that after any surgery, it takes a long time for a person to get back to normal life. Recovery after surgery varies with every patient. The operations mentioned in the story certainly help to better the quality of life, however, do remember, that it all depends on the body constitution of every person.
Also, the most important point that will help you along the road to recovery, is a positive mind and an optimistic attitude. So, do not get discouraged; go ahead, and face life courageously, whatever the circumstances.
Disclaimer: This story is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.