Beating Heart Surgery

Surgery on a stopped heart is very common, in fact most by pass surgeries are done this way..

Some heart procedures can only be performed on a motionless heart, but there are times when that's not possible.

Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Greg England explains, "In a small subset of patients, some older patients that have maybe some underlying mild neurological maybe some early dementia kind of things like that, they've got a diseased aorta a lot of times, maybe we can do the operation a little quicker. This way we don't have to manipulate the aorta."

During beating heart surgery doctors use a special device to stabilize the part of the heart on which they are operating.

The heart continues to beat and circulate blood to heart muscle during the operation.

Dr. England says, "We put snares around the vessels to occlude them temporarily to minimize bleeding and make the hole in it and hook the graft up like we always do but the heart is still bleeding. Put a shunt in so there's still flow through the vessel -- it's diminished somewhat, and it only takes about 10 minutes to do."

Surgery on a beating-heart can help reduce the risk for complications associated with temporarily stopping the heart.

As Dr. England says, it's just one more tool available to doctors.

"It's been in development throughout the United States for 10 plus years. We've been doing it increasingly here over the last few years, but in more significant numbers over the past couple of years."

Right now, local surgeons only use beating heart surgery for by pass patients, but the uses could be expanded in the future.

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