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What Is Open-heart Surgery?

Learning that you or someone you love needs to undergo open-heart surgery can be an upsetting and scary experience.

It’s important to know, however, that this type of surgery is relatively common and has a very high success rate. Here’s what you need to know about open-heart surgery.

Think of your heart as the engine that powers your body. It’s responsible for circulating blood throughout your body, providing your organs with the oxygen and nutrients your body needs to work properly. A healthy adult heart is about the size of a fist.

Open-heart surgeries can treat a myriad of heart problems, including congenital heart defects, heart failure arrhythmias, aneurysms and coronary artery disease. While there are other less invasive options to treat many heart issues, open-heart surgery is a reliable option performed daily across the country — and an option that will be offered at Tanner starting in January 2023.

Some procedures performed during open-heart surgery include:

  • Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG), aka heart bypass surgery
  • Heart valve replacements or repairs
  • Aneurysm repairs
  • Congenital heart defect repairs
  • Treatment of pulmonary embolism
  • Treatment of atrial fibrillation

Heart surgeons may also place pacemakers or implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) during open-heart surgery.

Open-heart surgery is considered a major surgery, but the mortality risk is actually very low. The procedure most often performed in the open-heart surgery category is a coronary artery bypass.

Coronary arteries provide blood to the heart. If they become narrowed or blocked due to heart disease, you may be at risk for a heart attack. During a coronary artery bypass, a surgeon will take a healthy blood vessel from another part of the body and use it to bypass the blocked arteries.

Heart disease is the leading cause for the need for open-heart surgery, but there are things you can do now to keep your heart healthy. While there are some risk factors that you cannot change, such as your age and ethnicity, you are not completely helpless when it comes to preventing heart disease.

How to reduce your risk for heart disease

Quit smoking.
Smoking is one of the leading causes of heart disease. One out of every four deaths from heart disease is caused by smoking. Reach out to your primary care provider for help quitting smoking or sign up for free Freshstart smoking cessation classes. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Move more.
While sitting on the couch at the end of a hard day may seem appealing, lack of exercise is also a leading cause of heart disease. It doesn’t mean you need to spend hours a day at the gym. Activities such as walking can help keep your heart healthy and happy. Just 30 minutes a day, five days a week, can make a huge difference in not only your heart health, but your health overall. Regular exercise will also help keep your weight in check. Excess weight is also a contributing factor to heart disease.

Manage your blood pressure.
High blood pressure can also put a strain on your heart by making it work harder than it should. Untreated high blood pressure can not only put you at risk for heart disease and heart attacks, but other illnesses as well, such as a stroke. Maintaining a healthy diet and limiting sodium can help lower your blood pressure.

Monitor your cholesterol levels.
High cholesterol can also contribute to heart disease. It can lead to the narrowing of your arteries which increases your chances of a blockage.

Take control of diabetes.
Adults with uncontrolled diabetes are also at a higher risk for heart problems. If you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, it’s vital for your heart to control your blood sugar.

Tanner can help! Find and register for free classes to help you quit smoking, improve your blood pressure, reduce your cholesterol and control diabetes. Visit tanner.org/classes-and-events now.

Where to get help for heart disease

Your primary care provider can help you get on the right track to heart health. If you don’t have a primary care provider, our web-based Find a Provider tool will help.

Ready to see a cardiologist? Appointments are available with Tanner Heart & Vascular Specialists in Bremen, Carrollton and Villa Rica, Georgia, and Wedowee, Alabama.

Need more information? Learn about open-heart surgery and our other cardiovascular services at TannerHeartCare.org.

Heart Care

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