Each day, thousands of people in the U.S. have cardiovascular surgery. It is performed on the heart or “great” vessels (the aorta, pulmonary veins and arteries) by cardiovascular surgeons. Frequently, it is done to treat complications of ischemic heart disease (a disease characterized by reduced blood supply of the heart muscle); correct congenital heart disease; or treat valvular heart disease (disorders and diseases of the heart valves, which are the tissue flaps that regulate the flow of blood through the chambers of the heart).
There are many different types of cardiovascular surgery. The purpose of cardiovascular surgeries may include:
- Repair or replace the valves that control blood flow through the heart's chambers
- Bypass or widen blocked or narrowed arteries to the heart
- Repair aneurysms, or bulges in the aorta, which can be deadly if they burst
- Implant devices to regulate heart rhythms
- Destroy small amounts of tissue that disturb electrical flow through the heart
- Make channels in the heart muscle to allow blood from a heart chamber directly into the heart muscle
- Boost the heart's pumping power with muscles taken from the back or abdomen
- Replace the damaged heart with a heart from a donor
Cardiovascular surgeries that are commonly performed at the Heart Hospital at Saint Francis include coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG) and heart valve surgery. During CABG, a healthy artery or vein from the body is connected, or grafted, to a blocked coronary (heart) artery. The grafted artery or vein bypasses (or goes around) the blocked portion of the coronary artery. This creates a new path for oxygen-rich blood to flow to the heart muscle. CABG can relieve chest pain and may lower your risk of having a heart attack. Heart valve surgery is used to repair or replace diseased heart valves.
Development of the heart-lung bypass machine made it possible for several heart problems to be treated by cardiovascular surgery. The bypass machine provides circulation outside of your body during the operation to remove waste products from the blood and maintain the supply of oxygen.