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Maine Heart Center - Cardiac Surgery
Cardiac Surgery

Valve Surgery

The heart has four chambers. At each squeeze, the valves open to let blood pass to the next chamber; then the valves close to prevent blood from moving backwards.

If a valve doesn't completely open, less blood must pass through a narrower opening. With a condition called " stenosis, " the valve may become difficult to open because it has become hardened with deposits or scarring. Conversely, if a valve doesn't tightly close, blood may move backwards. The valve or its supportive structures may have become worn. In either case, the heart has to work harder to pump the same amount of blood.

During heart valve surgery, one or more heart valves can be repaired or replaced. If a valve is repaired, it is made to work more efficiently. If it is replaced, a new valve replaces the defective one. If a valve is repaired, parts of a valve that are stiff or hardened are altered to help them open more widely. Parts of a worn valve may be strengthened to help the valve close more tightly. If a valve can't be repaired, it may be replaced with a prosthesis (a synthetic substitute for a valve). Two kinds of prosthetic heart valves are available: mechanical valves that are created from man-made materials and biological valves that are taken from animal or human donors.

Coronary Bypass Surgery

Coronary bypass surgery is performed to bypass blockages in the coronary arteries that feed the heart muscle. The number and areas of blockages are identified prior to surgery by cardiac catheterization. In order to bypass the blocked section of coronary artery, the surgeon actually reroutes the blood flow through a new section of blood vessel. This new vessel is usually taken from an internal mammary artery (which delivers blood to the shoulders and arms), an artery in the wrist or a vein of the leg. When these vessels are removed for bypass surgery, other vessels will take over their original function.

When the operation begins, two surgeons work on the patient. The first surgeon opens the chest, while the second surgeon harvests the saphenous vein. The length of the section of the vein or artery to be removed is determined by the number of bypasses to be performed. Once the vein has been successfully harvested, the leg incision is closed. The second surgeon then assists the remainder of the operation. The harvested artery of vein is now used to enable the blood to circumvent the blocked pathways.

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