Open heart surgery is necessary for bypassing a coronary artery to improve blood flow to the heart, repairing or replacing heart valves, repairing portions of the heart, installing pacemakers or completing a heart transplant, according to Healthline. The most common reason for open heart surgery is to improve blood flow to the heart with a coronary artery graft.
Open heart surgery repairs heart issues caused by coronary heart disease when other treatment methods have failed, notes the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Doctors first encourage patients to use lifestyle changes, medications and less invasive treatment options to improve heart function. Tests, such as echocardiograms, coronary angiograms and cardiac CT scans, give doctors a picture of the heart to help assess whether a patient needs open heart surgery. A health history, information about family health problems, a general physical exam, blood work and a stress test provide more information about the severity and likely prognosis of the heart condition. All these factor into whether or not the physician recommends open heart surgery for the patient.
Not all open heart surgery involves traditionally opening the chest to access the heart, adds Healthline. During modern open heart surgical procedures, surgeons sometimes use small incisions, cameras and precision tools to complete repairs and replacements in the heart area.