How They Perform Open Heart Surgery: A Complex Procedure to Restore Heart Health


Open heart surgery is a complex and life-saving procedure performed to treat various cardiovascular conditions. It involves accessing the heart through a large incision in the chest to repair or replace damaged or diseased heart valves, arteries, or other structures. In this article, we will explore the intricacies of open heart surgery, the steps involved in the procedure, and the remarkable teamwork of the surgical team in restoring heart health.

  • Preoperative Preparations:

Before open heart surgery, a comprehensive assessment is conducted to evaluate the patient’s overall health and determine the suitability for the procedure. This includes a thorough medical history review, physical examinations, and diagnostic tests such as electrocardiogram (ECG), echocardiogram, and coronary angiography. The patient’s medical team discusses the procedure, potential risks, benefits, and answers any questions or concerns.

  • Anesthesia and Incision:

Once in the operating room, the patient is administered general anesthesia to ensure they are unconscious and pain-free throughout the procedure. The surgeon makes a vertical incision in the middle of the chest, known as a median sternotomy, to access the heart. The sternum (breastbone) is carefully divided, and the chest is opened to expose the heart and surrounding structures.

  • Cardiopulmonary Bypass (CPB):

To perform the surgery on a still and bloodless field, a heart-lung machine is employed. Tubes are connected to the major blood vessels of the heart, diverting the blood away from the heart. The machine assumes the role of the heart, oxygenating and pumping the blood throughout the body, allowing the surgeon to work on the heart while it is temporarily stopped.

  • Opening the Heart:

Once the heart is still, the surgeon carefully opens the pericardium (the sac surrounding the heart) to gain direct access to the heart chambers and valves. The specific procedure performed during open heart surgery depends on the underlying condition being addressed. It may involve repairing or replacing damaged heart valves, bypassing blocked coronary arteries with grafts, or repairing congenital heart defects.

  • Surgical Repair or Replacement:

Using specialized instruments and techniques, the surgeon performs the necessary repairs or replacements of the affected heart structures. This may involve suturing, resizing or reshaping valves, removing blockages, or implanting artificial devices such as pacemakers or mechanical valves. The surgical team meticulously ensures the proper functioning and alignment of the repaired or replaced structures.

  • Closing the Chest:

After the necessary repairs are completed, the surgeon closes the chest by rejoining the sternum using wires or metal plates. Sutures or staples are used to close the incision in the skin. Temporary chest drainage tubes may be inserted to remove excess fluid and air from the surgical site.

  • Recovery and Postoperative Care:

Following open heart surgery, the patient is transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU) for close monitoring. The recovery process involves managing pain, ensuring proper wound healing, and gradually transitioning the patient off the heart-lung machine. Cardiac rehabilitation programs, including medication, physical therapy, and lifestyle modifications, are initiated to support the patient’s overall cardiovascular health and recovery.


Open heart surgery is a complex and intricate procedure that requires the expertise of a skilled surgical team. From the preoperative preparations to the meticulous repair or replacement of damaged heart structures, open heart surgery plays a vital role in restoring heart health and improving the quality of life for individuals with cardiovascular conditions. With advancements in surgical techniques and comprehensive postoperative care, this procedure continues to save lives and provide hope to those in need of critical cardiac interventions.

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