Open Heart Surgery- Procedure, Complications, Recovery

The idea of an open heart surgery where your chest is cut open, exposing your heart can be quite scary for most people. But surgeons have performed this operation for many years without risking any significant complications.

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Open heart surgery is a type of heart surgery where the chest cavity is cut open allowing access to the heart. A surgery will be performed on the heart’s arteries, muscles, valves, and other heart structures. While performing a heart surgery the heart may or may not be opened depending on its type.

Types of  Open Heart Surgery

Types of heart surgery include repair of heart defects, angioplasty, replacement of heart valves, bypass surgery, repair of infants’ congenital heart defects, heart transplants, and to clear out any arterial heart blockage.


When a person who is about to go through an open heart surgery, being prepared and open about how you feel is most advised by surgeons. It adds up to the success of the operation and helps speed up the patient’s recovery. First, patients need to address their fears. They should discuss with their doctors their feelings and understand that such feelings are normal and thousands of other people have undergone such operations without complications. Second, patients should understand how the operation is done. They should know what to expect before and after the surgery. Third, patients should prepare themselves for the surgery and their hospital stay. You’ll be staying in the hospital for several days so arrange things that need to be arranged at home or at work. And prepare your body by quitting smoking and choosing the right food diet.


A typical traditional open heart surgery will go through these procedures:

• First the surgeon will give medications so the patients will fall asleep.

• Then the doctors will check the patients’ heartbeat rate, oxygen levels, blood pressure, and the breathing of the patient. A breathing tube will also be inserted through the throat towards the lungs as the patient’s breathing support.

• Then the heart surgeon will make at least 2 or 5 inches surgical cut at the patients’ chest wall. The breastbone will be cut as well and so will the rib cage for easy access of the surgeon. In this surgery the heart will be temporarily stopped from beating and the patient will be placed in a heart-lung bypass machine.

• Once the machine begins to do its work or the heart has stopped from beating then the surgeon can now start repairing the heart problem. The open heart surgery must be completed within six hours, for prolonged stay in a heart lung bypass machine is not safe for the patient’s body.

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• After the surgery is done the body will be removed from the machine allowing blood flow into the patient’s heart. On most cases the heart would beat on its own but sometimes it needs electrical shock to help restart the patient’s heart.

• Once heartbeat is regained, the tubes will be removed and the heart lung bypass machine would be stopped

• The surgeon will now close the breastbone using wires.

• Now, the surgeon will close the skin incision through stitches or staples. And the breathing tube will be removed once the patient no longer needs it.

• After leaving the operation, patients will be spending a few hours in the ICU to make sure that heart is fully functioning before going to a normal hospital room in which the patient will stay for several days for close monitoring of the doctor.

Other newer and alternative open heart surgeries are:

• Off Pump Coronary Artery Bypass (OPCAB)

This type of surgery is similar to the traditional open heart surgery except that the operation takes place even when the heart is beating so putting the patient in a heart lung bypass machine is not necessary.

• Minimal Invasive Direct Artery Bypass (MIDAP)

For this type of surgery, the heart lung bypass machine is also not necessary but a machine will be attached to the heart to slow down its heartbeat. The breastbone doesn’t need to be cut as well but an incision as small as 2 to 3 inches will be made at the side of the chest between the ribs. The surgeon will insert a surgical tool into the incision and a tool with a camera to help them guide throughout the surgery.

• Robotic Assisted Coronary Artery Bypass (RACAB)

This type of surgery is familiar with MIDAP but the surgery will be performed using a robotic device. The surgeon will be in the other room controlling the robot while performing the surgery.


Open heart surgery have been performed by many doctors for many years now, but at times complications cannot be avoided including infection, bleeding, heart attack, stroke or even death of the patient.


After a successful open heart surgery, patients will be given guidelines on what they should do and not do. It is best to follow doctor’s orders and avoid unnecessary actions that may lead to certain complications. Ask your doctor for the required diet and be patient. You can go back to your normal activities once you gain full recovery.

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1 Comment

  1. i am student of 15 years and i would like to be a cardiologist in future.i think this is the best school i have to attend if you will help me with my expenses and fees. thank you

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