On the human heart...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I saw my first open heart surgery yesterday. It was a surreal feeling, opening up the chest wall and sternum and then being able to see everything inside. The cardiothoracic surgeon hooked the patient up to bypass for the surgery which means connecting two tubes, one to the right atrium to remove blood that otherwise would enter the heart and lungs for oxygenation, and the other to the aorta so that after the blood is oxygenated by the bypass machine it can circulate throughout the body without ever passing through the heart. After bypass was initiated, the heart was induced into ‘cardioplegia’, or a state of paralysis, so that we could replace the patient's heart valve. To replace it, the old valve is removed and the new one, either a tissue valve (an actual pig’s valve or a valve made of cow flesh) or a mechanical valve, is painstakingly sewed in place. 

The best part was at the end of the surgery, when bypass is stopped and blood is allowed to circulate through the heart again: it was truly amazing to watch. I never forgot when I held a human heart in gross anatomy lab, and I doubt that I’ll ever forget watching a human heart beat.

Days like this are what make me excited to become a physician.

Not exactly what our surgery looked like, but a pretty amazing open heart photo...

Almost exactly what our surgeries looked like! The large tubes are for bypass, and the suture threads are holding the  new valve in place...


  1. I love this! I am studying dentistry so I love a good medical post ;)

  2. I think what's accomplished in the OR is simply amazing!!

  3. That's one surgery I never saw during med school that I kind of wish I had. My dad had quadruple bypass surgery in 2010, and it is so incredibly amazing what they can do! I would NEVER want to be a CT surgeon, but I am so thankful there are people called to do that.

    When is 3rd year done for you? What rotations do you have left?

  4. I assisted on a procurement of a heart and followed it all the way to the heart's new home! It was AMAZING! I wanted to be a cardiothoracic surgeon after that experience -- lasted 2 days! haha... then i came back to reality.

    They have such LONG hours and rounding at 4-5am??? no way.....

    Glad you got to experience this amazing surgery.

  5. WOW... I treat so many people in therapy with heart conditions, and I read their histories about such and such surgeries or conditions and don't really think much of it (I mostly just see the walking, talking, interesting human being they are!)... I forget all the intricacies of what their bodies had to go through to be here and it makes me appreciate how functional they are on the outside! Thanks for the post, and thanks for becoming a doctor to make people therapy-worthy! :)

  6. Just found your blog!

    I am an ER nurse, so I am loving your medical post, and your professional fashions!

    Your newest follower,



  7. Now *that's* a day at work. lol

  8. Hi, I am new to your blog, 1st time visiting. I am loving your blog!!! Love your outfits and also love to read about your medical studies. Congrats btw on getting into medical school. Would you like to follow eachother? I am going to follow you now.
    Claudia P.


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