Beating Heart Bypass Surgery

Beating heart bypass surgery is an operation designed to increase blood flow to the heart. The procedure is done while the heart is beating, and does not require the use of a heart-lung machine. By adding a new, unclogged blood vessel to the heart, this surgery can significantly improve the health of patients with coronary artery disease.

What Is Beating Heart Bypass Surgery?

Bypass surgery is a procedure that takes a blood vessel from somewhere else in the body and uses it to bypass a vessel in the heart that has become damaged and blocked. This improves the blood supply to the heart and, in turn, improves the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle. There are a couple of ways to perform heart bypass surgery.
 
One way is the traditional method (see Bypass Surgery). The other method is called off-pump bypass surgery or beating heart bypass surgery. As the name implies, beating heart bypass surgery is performed while the heart is still beating, and off-pump bypass surgery refers to the fact that the heart-lung machine is not used.
 

Understanding the Heart

The heart is a hollow, muscular organ about the size of a fist. The heart's primary job is to pump blood throughout the body.
 
Because the heart is a muscle, it needs blood to function properly, which it gets from the coronary arteries. These arteries wrap around the outside of the heart, supplying oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the heart muscle.
 
The inside of a normal heart is divided into four chambers:
 
  • Right atrium
  • Left atrium
  • Right ventricle
  • Left ventricle.
     
Blood, in need of oxygen, flows in from the body and enters the right atrium. From the right atrium, blood is squeezed into the right ventricle through one of the heart's valves.
 
Heart valves keep blood flowing in a one-way direction by opening to let the proper amount of blood flow through and then closing to prevent backflow.
 
From the right ventricle, blood is pumped through another valve and then into the lungs, where it receives oxygen. Flowing back to the heart into the left atrium, the blood is then squeezed into the left ventricle through the mitral valve. From there, the oxygen-rich blood is pumped through the aortic valve and into the aorta, where it flows to the rest of the body.
 
 
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