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Heart Surgery

Types of heart surgery

Some heart surgeries are done with 1 big incision (cut). Some heart surgeries are minimally invasive, which means you'll have several very small incisions. Recovery times are different with different procedures. Your surgeon will talk to you about the option that is best for you.

The most common types of heart surgery are:

  • coronary artery bypass graft (CABG or “cabbage”)
  • heart valve repair or replacement​
  • repairing the aorta
  • repairing a heart defect

This information is about coronary artery bypass graft and valve surgery.

Coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG)

When a coronary artery becomes narrow or blocked, less blood gets to the heart muscle. This means part of the heart muscle isn’t getting enough oxygen, which can cause:

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  • angina (the heavy, tight, squeezing, aching, pressure, or burning feeling in the chest, throat, jaw, arms, or between shoulder blades)
  • shortness of breath
  • a heart attack

​Coronary artery bypass surgery uses small arteries or veins from other parts of the body, such as the leg or wrist. They are grafted to create a bypass for the blood flow around the narrowed or blocked areas.​​​

Heart valve surgery

Valves may be damaged by:

  • rheumatic fever or other infections
  • aging
  • a birth defect
  • failure of the heart muscle

Healthy valves open all the way to let the blood flow through. They then close all the way so that the blood doesn’t flow backwards.

When the valves are damaged, they don't open or close fully. This can cause 2 things to happen:

  • Your heart has less blood to pump.
  • Your heart has to work harder because blood flowed back into the heart chambers, and the pressure inside the chambers of the heart goes up.

Some damaged heart valves can be repaired, while others have to be replaced.

Replacement valves can be mechanical valves or tissue valves made from human or animal tissue.

Your heart surgeon will talk with you about what the best choice is for you.​​​​​

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