In the term open-heart surgery, “open-heart” is can be misleading. Contrary to popular belief, the term “open” is used in reference to the chest, not the heart.
What is open-heart surgery?
Open-heart surgery is any kind of surgery in which, an incision is used to open the chest and perform surgery on the muscles, valves, or arteries of the heart.
Open-heart surgery is usually performed on people diagnosed with coronary heart disease. In a coronary disease, the blood vessels which supply blood and oxygen to the heart muscle can become narrow and hard – often referred to as “hardening of the arteries” – and may result in a heart attack.
Common types of open-heart surgery include:
- Surgery to current heart defects present at birth
- Heat bypass surgery
- Heart valve surgery
However, many people remain misinformed about the specifics of open-heart surgery. Here are some of the most common myths about open-heart surgery you should not believe in.
Myth: The heart is taken out to perform the surgery
This is a common misconception that your heart is taken out of your chest, given the term “open-heart surgery”. In truth, only a heart transplant surgery requires the physical removal of your heart.
Besides, over the years, new heart procedures have been modified. Most heart surgeries can now be completed using smaller incisions and invasive techniques, instead of wide openings. As a result, there are fewer scars and quicker recovery.
Myth: Open-heart surgery is very risky
Every surgery involves its risks and complication. Likewise, open-heart surgery also presents the risk of complications, including general surgery risks and risks linked with anesthesia. The risk can vary from one open-heart surgery to another. Besides, the risks involved are higher if the blood is pumped by a cardiopulmonary bypass machine instead of the heart.
In truth, only the operating surgeons can determine the individual risk of complications from the open-heart surgery, based on factors such as:
- Patient’s current health state
- Procedure of the surgery
- Patient’s age and gender
Moreover, the risk of complications is increased in patients over and above 70 years old, in patients who have undergone previous heart surgeries, and those with chronic conditions like:
- High blood pressure
- coronary artery disease
Myth: Open-heart surgery can affect the brain function
Earlier, stroke and brain damage were common occurrences after open-heart surgery. Luckily, those complications can now be averted easily. In recent years, targeted improvements in surgical techniques have reduced such risks to a great extent.
Nonetheless, other complications can arise owing to specific medical conditions. It is best to discuss them with your doctor before the operation. However, the risks of brain damage and stroke after open-heart surgery are lower than before.
Myth: Angioplasty is safer than open-heart surgery
In angioplasty, minimally invasive procedures are used to open the blocked arteries around the heart. Generally, a stent which is a tiny tube used to keep a blocked passageway open is used during the procedure to maintain the opening. A tiny inflated balloon is inserted into the vessel to help the blood to flow again. And then, the balloon is inflated to open the passageway.
Now, the recovery time for angioplasty is certainly quicker than open-heart surgery and requires smaller incisions, but angioplasty is not recommended for everyone with coronary heart disease. Besides, patients may need more procedures or another angioplasty after the initial surgery.
Myth: There are many physical restrictions after open-heart surgery
Typically, the patient spends the first night after the surgery in the intensive care unit (ICU). The patient is then shifted to the regular care room for the next three to seven days. At this point, he can resume light activities.
However, it may take up to six weeks for the patient to feel better and six months to make a full recovery. But in the long term, patients can benefit from the surgery if they improve their heart health. This can be achieved by:
- not smoking
- following an active lifestyle
- avoiding foods rich in sugar, salt, and fat
- controlling high BP and cholesterol
Myth: Robotic surgery is better
Firstly, let us understand what robotic surgery is.
Robotic surgery is a type of heart surgery performed by making small cuts using tiny instruments and tools controlled by robots. In this way, surgeons can perform surgery which is less invasive as compared to open-heart surgery.
Usually, robot surgery is used in different heart-related procedures such as:
- coronary artery bypass
- cardiac tissue ablation
- tumor removal
- heart defect repair
- valve surgery
Robotic surgery can remove several complications involved in open-heart surgery. Nonetheless, there are many risks involved with robotic surgery as well, including stroke, infection, heart attack, and death. In fact, the surgeon may be unable to complete the robotic surgery in certain cases and may need to perform open-heart surgery.
As you can see, a lot of information surrounding open-heart surgery is false and misconstrued. Therefore, it is very important to separate fact from fiction before making any assumptions.