Open Heart Surgery Program

"Open heart surgery" is a general term for any surgical procedure that involves opening the chest to operate on the heart. Once only available at large academic medical centers, open heart surgery is now available at many smaller, regional hospitals around the country. The program at WMHS is the only one in Maryland west of Baltimore.

Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery - The most common form of open-heart surgery is coronary artery bypass surgery. This type of surgery is performed to improve the blood flow in the heart's arteries so that the heart muscle gets the supply of oxygen it needs to be healthy. It is recommended for patients with a blockage in one or more of their heart arteries that causes angina symptoms and decreased heart function that cannot be controlled by medication alone.

In coronary artery bypass surgery, the surgeon uses a healthy vein or artery from the patient's body to bypass each narrowed artery in the heart. The surgeon decides to use either a vein from the patient's leg or an artery from the chest for the grafting, depending on the number and location of the blockages. Two, three, four, or even five bypasses can be done in one operation.

Heart Valve Surgery - Heart valve surgery also is a common type of open-heart surgery. It is often recommended for patients whose heart valves have become damaged or scarred from infections, birth defects, trauma and heart attacks and whose symptoms cannot be managed by medication.

In some cases, the surgeon can restore the patient's valve to normal function. If the heart valve cannot be repaired, it is replaced. Two types of valves are used—tissue or mechanical—and the surgeon selects the type best suited for the patient.