What happens during open heart surgery? Do they have to stop the heart?

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Open-heart surgery is any type of surgery where the chest is cut open and surgery is performed on the muscles, valves, or arteries of the heart.


Yes, doctors temporarily stop the heart to perform surgery on it. They place the patient on a heart-lung bypass machine, to stop the blood from flowing to the heart. This automatically stops pumping action of heart muscles.

How is open-heart surgery performed?

  1. The patient is given general anesthesia. This will make sure the patient is asleep and pain-free.

  2. The surgeon makes an 8- to 10-inch cut in the chest.

  3. The surgeon cuts through all or part of the patient’s breastbone to expose the heart.

  4. Once the heart is visible, the patient may be connected to a heart-lung bypass machine. The machine moves blood away from the heart so that the surgeon can operate.

  5. The surgeon performs the required procedure like attaching a graft vessel to bypass a blocked artery in heart wall, or replacing a heart valve, etc.

  6. The surgeon allows blood to flow back in heart after the procedure; closes the breastbone with wire.

  7. The cut is stitched up.

What are some of the risks to open heart surgery?

There are a lot of risks in a open heart surgery. Making it one of the most deadliest surgerys to perform.

Some common risks are,

  • Heart Attack/ Stroke
  • Chest Pain or low fever
  • Chest wound infection


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