Adults who need heart (cardiac) surgery have access to a full range of options at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute.
Our cardiac surgeons perform open heart and minimally invasive heart surgeries, including:
And, people with thoracic aortic diseases have immediate access to advanced treatments such as:
As a national center of excellence for heart surgery — and the largest cardiac surgery program in Pennsylvania — our surgeons and researchers have helped lead the way in developing new treatments and surgical techniques.
For example, our heart surgeons:
Open heart surgery may be the best treatment option for most patients with more than one blocked coronary artery, according to new research from Suresh Mulukutla, MD, and other UPMC experts. Learn more.
Open heart surgery refers to heart surgery performed via traditional midline sternotomy.
Surgery may involve:
Most, but not all, open heart surgery requires the use of the “heart-lung machine" or cardiopulmonary bypass.
The machine does the work of the heart (forward flow of blood) and the lungs (oxygenation of blood). This lets surgeons safely stop the heart so they can work in a bloodless and motionless field.
This varies greatly, as each person is unique. In most cases, pain is the greatest in the first 72 hours after surgery.
Pain greatly improves once you're moving and walking with cardiopulmonary rehab and doctors remove your chest tubes.
Most people still need some narcotics after going home and mild post-op discomfort can last up to 6 weeks. Doctors describe and label PSPS (post sternotomy pain syndrome) as pain that lasts more than 2 months.
During a sternotomy, surgeons first make an incision with a knife from the sternal angle to the xiphoid. The size of the incision depends on the type of heart surgery and varies among surgeons.
Next, your surgeon will:
Yes. After open heart surgery, your care team will give you instructions about sternal precautions. These are guidelines you must follow as to not shift the breastbone. Certain movements or activities can cause malunion (failure of the sternotomy to heal) or infection.
Sternal precautions include no:
You can sleep on your back, side, or stomach, whatever way you're most comfortable.
Survival rate varies greatly depending on:
Results also vary among hospitals and heart surgery programs.
The Society of Thoracic Surgeons is a national organization that collects and publicly reports data for all heart surgery programs.
Depending on your procedure, your doctor may be able to tell you your calculated risk score. This is a score using a very specific algorithm based on the society's national data.
If you're having a more complex procedure and can't get a surgical risk score, your surgeon may give you a predicted risk.
To get this score, surgeons will look at factors such as:
Bypass surgery, or coronary bypass surgery, is a distinct type of open heart surgery.
The broader term, “open heart surgery," refers to any heart procedure involving an incision to directly access the heart.
Often -- but not always – surgeons will use the 'heart-lung machine') for open heart surgery. This lets them stop the heart so they can work in a bloodless and motionless field.
Bypass surgery or coronary artery bypass grafting refers to heart surgery to restore blood flow to the heart muscle. This surgery is for people with coronary artery disease (blockages in the arteries that supply the heart muscle).
In bypass surgery, surgeons take veins and arteries from other areas and use them to 'bypass' the blocked coronary arteries.
Most common blood vessels surgeons harvest for bypass surgery include the:
You can live a normal, healthy life without these vessels surgeons use for bypasses.
These harvested vessels go around the area of blockage. Surgeons do not place stents or remove the blockages. The new vein serves as a 'detour' around the 'roadblock'.
Bypass surgery is for people with high grade blockages of the coronary arteries that don't respond to stenting.
It provides blood flow to the areas of heart muscle affected by the blockages to:
No, surgeons do not purposely break ribs during open heart surgery. A sternotomy is the very controlled division of the breastbone.
Sometimes rib fractures can occur but this isn't common, and surgeons can usually stabilize them with wires when closing the breastbone.
Call the UPMC Division of Cardiac Surgery at 412‑648‑6200 to make an appointment, refer a patient, or learn more about our surgical services.
We perform heart surgery at the following locations:
Follow the beat for a healthier life. Check out these posts from UPMC HealthBeat: