Cardiovascular Surgery

What Is Cardiovascular Surgery?

Heart surgery or cardiovascular surgery is a procedure performed to treat heart problems. A cardiovascular surgeon at Carondelet Heart & Vascular Institute Physician Group may recommend specific cardiovascular surgery procedures if other treatment options, such as lifestyle changes or other medical procedures and medications, are not enough to solve the problem with your heart.

Cardiovascular surgery helps fix heart valves that don’t work well. It also helps control abnormal heart rhythms, implant medical devices to help the heart function properly, replace a damaged heart with a healthy one and treat heart failure or coronary heart disease (CHD).

How Long Can Cardiovascular Surgery Procedures Take?

It may depend on the cardiac surgery you’re having. Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG), the most common type of heart surgery, usually takes about 3-6 hours to finish.

Cardiovascular Doctor

Cardiovascular doctors, sometimes called cardiovascular surgeons, repair damage by diseases or disorders of the heart by operating on the cardiovascular system. A primary care doctor usually refers a patient to a cardiovascular doctor if a patient is at risk of having heart disease or experiencing heart disease symptoms. If a patient needs surgery as recommended by a cardiologist, a surgeon will take over the patient’s care. Cardiovascular surgeons perform different heart procedures on the heart valves and the blood vessels in the body.

Cardiac Procedures and Treatment

  • Angioplasty is a procedure that uses a balloon to widen narrowed arteries.
  • Artificial heart valve surgery involves replacing an abnormal or diseased heart valve with an artificial one.
  • Atherectomy is a procedure in which excess plaque is cut from an artery using a rotating shaver.
  • Bypass surgery involves creating alternative paths for blood flow to the heart using arteries and veins from other parts of the body.
  • Cardiomyoplasty is a procedure when skeletal muscles are taken from the back or abdomen and wrapped around the heart. The added muscle can help boost pumping, aided by an implanted stimulator.
  • Cardiovascular stent surgery involves installing a wire mesh tube into a narrowed coronary artery to keep it open. It is often used in conjunction with an angioplasty procedure.
  • Minimally invasive heart surgery is performed through small incisions as an alternative to open-heart surgery.
  • Radiofrequency ablation is a procedure in which an electrode is used to burn small amounts of the heart muscle. This cardiac procedure treats excessively rapid and irregular beating.

Vascular Treatment and Procedures

The vascular system is the body’s network of blood vessels (arteries, veins and capillaries) that carries blood to and from the heart. Vascular surgeons with Carondelet Heart & Vascular Institute Physician Group are experts in treating circulatory system conditions and advancing treatments and technology in the field of vascular and endovascular surgery. Through ongoing clinical research, they continue to expand the possibilities for minimally invasive treatment of thoracic aneurysms, renal artery stenosis, lower extremity and carotid artery disease. Our vascular surgeons provide effective, compassionate care using advanced technology and cardiovascular surgery procedures.

Explore our Vascular Services

From aneurysm repair to complex wound management, Carondelet Heart & Vascular Institute’s cardiovascular surgeons are proud to offer the following types of heart surgery and procedures:

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Repair

An aneurysm is an abnormal widening or ballooning of a portion of an artery due to weakness in the wall of the blood vessel. The aorta is the main blood vessel that supplies blood to the abdomen, pelvis and legs. An abdominal aortic aneurysm occurs when an area of the aorta becomes very large or balloons out.

If cardiovascular surgery is recommended, there are two types of heart surgery:

  1. Traditional (open) repair: A large incision is made in your abdomen. The abnormal vessel is replaced with a graft made of man-made material.

  2. Endovascular stent grafting: A cardiovascular stent surgery can be done by making a small incision in your abdomen so that you may recover more quickly. The cardiovascular surgeon makes a small incision on each side of the leg at the groin to visualize each leg's femoral arteries. With the use of special endovascular instruments, along with X-ray images for guidance, a stent graft will be inserted through the femoral artery and advanced into the aorta to the site of the aneurysm. The stent graft is inserted into the aorta in a collapsed position and placed at the aneurysm site. Once in place, the stent-graft will be expanded, attaching to the wall of the aorta to support it. The aneurysm will eventually shrink down onto the stent graft.

Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm Repair

A thoracic aortic aneurysm occurs in the body's largest artery (the aorta) that passes through the chest. The most common cause of a thoracic aortic aneurysm is hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). This condition is more common for people with high cholesterol, long-term high blood pressure or who smoke.

The treatment depends on the location and shape of the aneurysm and your overall health status. If cardiovascular surgery is recommended, the cardiovascular surgeon will decide whether an open-heart surgery or a minimally invasive surgery is the best approach. In some cases, an open-heart surgery is required to replace the damaged portion.

Carotid Artery Surgery and Cardiovascular Stent Surgery

A carotid artery on each side of the neck provides blood to the brain and face. A plaque build-up in an artery can restrict blood flow to the brain and cause a stroke. With carotid artery surgery, the surgeon cuts open the carotid artery, removes the plaque and then stitches up the artery. Alternatively, the surgeon can perform carotid angioplasty and stenting. In this case, a catheter (flexible tube) with a balloon on the end is inserted through an incision in an artery and moved up to the blockage. The balloon is inflated, opening the artery. A stent (wire mesh tube) can be placed in the area of the blockage to keep the artery open.

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

PAD is the most common type of peripheral vascular disease and is similar to coronary artery disease because it occurs as a result of plaque buildup. PAD is often a sign of cardiovascular disease. It occurs due to plaque buildup that causes veins or arteries outside the heart and brain to narrow, most commonly in the legs but also the arms and abdomen. If the plaque deposits are severe enough, they can block blood flow and result in tissue death.

Untreated, PAD can lead to amputation of the foot or leg. A cardiovascular surgeon may use open-heart surgery or minimally invasive surgery to open up the blockage and increase blood flow to limbs. The goals of PAD management are to save limbs, provide symptom relief, improve function and prevent cardiovascular events, such as a heart attack, stroke or vascular death.

Learn more about the latest treatment options available for PAD.

Vascular Access for Hemodialysis and Chemotherapy

If you suffer from kidney failure and are on hemodialysis, you may require a surgical procedure to create a connection between a vein and an artery for access to the dialysis machine. The options include grafts (connecting a vein to an artery using a soft plastic tube) or fistulas (a surgical connection of an artery and a vein).

If you’re undergoing long-term treatments that deliver medicine or nutrients through the bloodstream, such as chemotherapy, a cardiovascular surgeon can place a flexible plastic tube (catheter) into a blood vessel. This cardiac procedure allows easier access when it is necessary to draw blood or deliver medications and nutrients into the bloodstream over a longer period of time.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that forms in a deep vein in the body. Most deep vein clots occur in the lower leg or thigh. A deep vein thrombosis can break loose and cause a serious problem in the lung, called a pulmonary embolism. In some instances, a cardiovascular surgeon can perform a minimally invasive treatment using a catheter to unblock the vein and reduce the chance of complications, such as pulmonary embolism and chronic venous insufficiency.

Varicose Veins and Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Inside veins are valves that work like flaps, keeping blood flowing toward your heart, so it does not collect in one place. The valves in varicose veins are either damaged or missing, which causes the veins to stay filled with blood, especially while standing.

Chronic venous insufficiency is a long-term condition that occurs because a vein is partly blocked or blood is leaking around the valves of the veins.

If you suffer from isolated superficial venous insufficiency and varicose veins, you may be able to find relief with minimally invasive treatments. Treatments can include vein ablation (use of a catheter and laser or radiofrequency energy to seal the vein), varicose vein removal with combinations of sclerotherapy (injecting medicine into a vessel to cause it to shrink), laser therapy and limited surgical excision.

Learn more about our vein treatment solutions here.

Complex Wound Management

Complex wounds include leg ulcers, diabetic foot ulcers, wound fistulae (an abnormal tunnel between two body cavities created by ruptured abscesses) and wounds that fail to heal. Treatment plans can include the use of:

  • Negative pressure wound treatment (a vacuum is used to draw wound edges together and remove infectious materials)
  • Chemical/conservative or sharp removal of dead tissue
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (using repeated sessions in a hyperbaric chamber)
  • Application of advanced biologic products

Cardiac Surgery Recovery

An open vascular surgery may take about 3 months of recovery at home, and an endovascular surgery may take about 4-6 weeks to recover. For a graft surgery to repair an aneurysm, you may be asked to follow up with your vascular doctor to monitor if the graft is functioning well.


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