Open-heart surgery is any type of surgery where the chest is cut open and surgery is performed on the muscles, valves, or arteries of the heart.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)Trusted Source, coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) is the most common type of heart surgery done on adults. During this surgery, a healthy artery or vein is grafted (attached) to a blocked coronary artery. This allows the grafted artery to “bypass” the blocked artery and bring fresh blood to the heart.
Open-heart surgery is sometimes called traditional heart surgery. Today, many new heart procedures can be performed with only small incisions, not wide openings. Therefore, the term “open-heart surgery” can be misleading.
When is open-heart surgery needed?
Open-heart surgery may be done to perform a CABG. A coronary artery bypass graft may be necessary for people with coronary heart disease.
Coronary heart disease occurs when the blood vessels that provide blood and oxygen to the heart muscle become narrow and hard. This is often called “hardening of the arteries.”
Hardening occurs when fatty material forms a plaque on the walls of the coronary arteries. This plaque narrows the arteries, making it difficult for blood to get through. When blood can’t flow properly to the heart, a heart attack may occur.