Cardiovascular surgery is surgery on the heart or great vessels performed by cardiac surgeons. Frequently, it is done to treat complications of ischemic heart disease (for example, coronary artery bypass grafting), correct congenital heart disease, or treat valvular heart disease from various causes including endocarditis, rheumatic heart disease and atherosclerosis. It also includes heart transplantation.
Open heart surgery
Open heart surgery is a surgery in which the patient’s heart is opened and surgery is performed on the internal structures of the heart. It was soon discovered by Dr. Wilfred G. Bigelow of the University of Toronto that the repair of intracardiac pathologies was better done with a bloodless and motionless environment, which means that the heart should be stopped and drained of blood. The first successful intracardiac correction of a congenital heart defect usinghypothermia was performed by Dr. C. Walton Lillehei and Dr. F. John Lewis at the University of Minnesota on September 2, 1952. The following year, Soviet surgeon Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Vishnevskiy conducted the first cardiac surgery under local anesthesia.
Surgeons realized the limitations of hypothermia – complex intracardiac repairs take more time and the patient needs blood flow to the body, particularly to the brain. The patient needs the function of the heart and lungs provided by an artificial method, hence the term cardiopulmonary bypass. Dr. John Heysham Gibbon at Jefferson Medical School in Philadelphia reported in 1953 the first successful use of extracorporeal circulation by means of an oxygenator, but he abandoned the method, disappointed by subsequent failures. In 1954 Dr. Lillehei realized a successful series of operations with the controlled cross-circulation technique in which the patient’s mother or father was used as a ‘heart-lung machine‘. Dr. John W. Kirklin at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota started using a Gibbon type pump-oxygenator in a series of successful operations, and was soon followed by surgeons in various parts of the world.
Nazih Zuhdi performed the first total intentional hemodilution open heart surgery on Terry Gene Nix, age 7, on February 25, 1960, at Mercy Hospital, Oklahoma City, OK. The operation was a success; however, Nix died three years later in 1963. In March, 1961, Zuhdi, Carey, and Greer, performed open heart surgery on a child, age 3½, using the total intentional hemodilution machine. In 1985 Dr. Zuhdi performed Oklahoma’s first successful heart transplant on Nancy Rogers at Baptist Hospital. The transplant was successful, but Rogers, a cancer sufferer, died from an infection 54 days after surgery.
Modern beating-heart surgery
Since the 1990s, surgeons have begun to perform “off-pump bypass surgery” – coronary artery bypass surgery without the aforementioned cardiopulmonary bypass. In these operations, the heart is beating during surgery, but is stabilized to provide an almost still work area in which to connect the conduit vessel that bypasses the blockage; in the U.S., most conduit vessels are harvested endoscopically, using a technique known as endoscopic vessel harvesting(EVH).
Some researchers believe that the off-pump approach results in fewer post-operative complications, such aspostperfusion syndrome, and better overall results. Study results are controversial as of 2007, the surgeon’s preference and hospital results still play a major role.
Minimally invasive surgery
A new form of heart surgery that has grown in popularity is robot-assisted heart surgery. This is where a machine is used to perform surgery while being controlled by the heart surgeon. The main advantage to this is the size of the incision made in the patient. Instead of an incision being at least big enough for the surgeon to put his hands inside, it does not have to be bigger than 3 small holes for the robot’s much smaller hands to get through.
Pediatric cardiovascular surgery
Pediatric cardiovascular surgery is surgery of the heart of children. Russell M. Nelson performed the first successful pediatric cardiac operation at the Salt Lake General Hospital in March 1956, a total repair of tetralogy of Fallot in a four-year-old girl.
The development of cardiac surgery and cardiopulmonary bypass techniques has reduced the mortality rates of these surgeries to relatively low ranks. For instance, repairs of congenital heart defects are currently estimated to have 4–6% mortality rates. A major concern with cardiac surgery is the incidence of neurological damage. Stroke occurs in 2–3% of all people undergoing cardiac surgery, and is higher in patients at risk for stroke. A more subtle constellation of neurocognitive deficits attributed to cardiopulmonary bypass is known as postperfusion syndrome, sometimes called “pumphead”. The symptoms of postperfusion syndrome were initially felt to be permanent, but were shown to be transient with no permanent neurological impairment.
In order to assess the performance of surgical units and individual surgeons, a popular risk model has been created called the EuroSCORE. This takes a number of health factors from a patient and using precalculated logistic regression coefficients attempts to give a percentage chance of survival to discharge. Within the UK this EuroSCORE was used to give a breakdown of all the centres for cardiothoracic surgery and to give some indication of whether the units and their individuals surgeons performed within an acceptable range. The results are available on the CQC website. The precise methodology used has however not been published to date nor has the raw data on which the results are based.