Open heart surgery

Alternative names
Heart surgery - open


Any surgery where the chest is opened and surgery is performed on the heart is called open heart surgery. The term “open” refers to the chest, not the heart itself (which may or may not be opened, depending on the type of surgery).

Open heart surgery includes surgery on the heart muscle, valves, arteries, or other structures. The definition becomes confusing in light of new procedures being performed on the heart through smaller incisions. Minimally invasive surgery and robotic-assisted heart surgery are still referred to as open heart surgery.

A heart-lung machine (also called cardiopulmonary bypass) is usually used to help provide oxygen-rich blood to the brain and other vital organs. It pumps, supplies oxygen to, and removes carbon dioxide from the blood and also provides anesthesia to keep the patient asleep during surgery.

There are some new surgical procedures being performed that are done with the heart still beating. These procedures are referred to as minimally invasive heart surgery or limited access coronary artery surgery. These procedures are being evaluated in several medical centers as an alternative to the standard methods using the heart-lung machine.

Related topics:


Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 2, 2012
by Arthur A. Poghosian, M.D.

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