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Beating heart surgery

Beating-heart surgery is a way to perform surgery without stopping the heart. Surgeons 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. Surgery on a beating-heart helps reduce the risk for complications associated with temporarily stopping the heart during surgery.

If the heart is stopped for surgery, the surgeon must restart it and reintroduce blood into the tissue. This is called reperfusion. However, reperfusion can cause impairment of heart function. Sometimes, heart muscle tissue can be damaged at the cellular level during reperfusion, a phenomenon known as reperfusion injury. In some people, reperfusion injury can lead to complications such as arrhythmias and heart attacks. Reperfusion injury is especially a concern in high-risk patients, such as the elderly and patients with severe blockages. The reperfusion injury can be avoided if the heart is kept beating during surgery.

Some of the procedures performed on a beating heart include:

  • Coronary artery bypass graft surgery
  • Surgery for atrial fibrillation
  • Treatment of some congenital heart defects, such as closure of atrial septal defect
  • Valve repair (mitral, pulmonary, or tricuspid)
  • Valve replacement (mitral or tricuspid)
  • Ventricular reconstruction

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