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What Are the Different Types of Adult Cardiac Surgery?

By Lynda Lampert
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are various types of adult cardiac surgery. The most common type of surgery is coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG). Cardiac surgeons can also replace any of the heart valves by surgical procedure. The Maze procedure is used for heart arrhythmias, and cardiac surgeons are also responsible for repairing aneurysms to the aorta, which is the main vessel that comes out of the heart. Finally, heart transplant is the ultimate type of adult cardiac surgery.

Coronary artery bypass grafting is conducted in hospitals around the world as a treatment for heart disease. The coronary arteries are the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart, and if they are narrowed or blocked, a heart attack occurs. In order to restore blood flow, a cardiac surgeon will take a blood vessel from a leg or an arm and use it to bypass the blockage in the artery. This is called a graft site, and it helps reverse some of the damage from a heart attack.

Another type of adult cardiac surgery is the replacement of a heart valve. There are four valves in the heart that regulate the flow of blood: aortic, pulmonic, mitral and tricuspid. Any of these can be replaced, but the two most commonly replaced are the mitral and aortic valves. This operation is often necessary because the flow of blood and the pressures in the heart that are regulated by the valves are not adequate to enable proper heart function. These valves can be replaced by a synthetic material valve or with valves from pigs.

Heart arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation can be treated with the adult cardiac surgery known as a Maze procedure. A heart arrhythmia is when the heart beats abnormally or irregularly. Atrial fibrillation is when the top chambers of the heart, the atria, quiver irregularly. This is caused by an irregular electrical pathway within the atria of the heart chamber itself. The procedure is a surgical "rewiring" of the atria to introduce a new pathway and help create a regular heartbeat again.

Adult cardiac surgery is also concerned with the aorta and any aneurysms that might occur along it. The aorta is the main blood vessel that comes off the heart and runs the length of the body to the pelvis. An aneurysm is a ballooning of a vessel, or sometimes the heart muscle itself, that can burst and bleed if not treated surgically. A cardiac surgeon can repair an aortic aneurysm anywhere it occurs along the vessel.

Heart transplant operations are another type of adult cardiac surgery and usually are reserved for patients who are in heart failure. A cardiac surgeon can insert a ventricular assistive device while the patient waits for a donor. This is an implant that assists the left ventricle in its job of pumping blood to the body. As the heart fails, it is unable to pump blood to the body or into the lungs. The only choice is to replace it with a new heart, and that is a surgical procedure that usually requires a specialized surgeon to perform.

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