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...|