Stroke During Open Heart Surgery
(Technically speaking, an open heart surgery is any procedure where the chest is opened, which certainly includes procedures beyond a heart bypass (a valve replacement, for example). However, because a heart bypass is the most common type of open heart surgery, for the purposes of this article, we will be using the terms "bypass" and "open heart surgery" interchangeably.)
A stroke is a serious complication that can occur during open heart surgery. The latest studies show that temporary or permanent strokes can occur in about 5 out of 100 procedures.
Some of these strokes appear to be caused by a piece of plaque, which is a piece of calcium or a diseased part of the blood vessel or valve, that breaks off and travels through the arteries to the brain. When the piece of plaque blocks a small artery in the brain, it prevents blood and oxygen from reaching that area of the brain. The damage that results from the blockage is called a stroke. Your body can be affected by a stroke in a variety of ways, including paralysis, loss of speech, or even loss of life.