Surgical Procedures

Green Box Background

If a correctable problem is causing your heart failure—such as a defect or a blocked coronary artery—surgery may be recommended.

 

Following are surgeries that treat heart failure:

Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) (Also called Angioplasty)

One cause of heart failure is blockage in the coronary arteries. Opening these blockages with PCI can improve the blood supply to your heart muscle.

During a PCI procedure:

  • A small tube called a catheter with a tiny deflated balloon on the end is inserted through an incision in the groin area and pushed through to the blocked artery.
  • The balloon is inflated to push open the artery.
  • The balloon is removed when the artery is fully opened.
  • A mesh tube called a stent may be placed during the procedure to keep the blood vessel open.

PCI typically takes place in the cardiac catheterization lab.

Bypass Surgery

During coronary artery bypass surgery, healthy blood vessels from your leg, arm or chest replace the function of a blocked artery in your heart. The healthy vessels are surgically attached to the diseased artery in a way that allows the blood to flow around the blocked section.

Heart Valve Repair or Replacement

If a damaged heart valve is causing your heart failure, your doctor may be able to repair or replace it. Heart valves keep the blood flow inside the heart moving forward. Depending on your situation: 

  • Your surgeon can place a surgical balloon in the valve that has become stiff. The balloon is then inflated in an attempt to increase the opening of the valve to improve blood flow through the valve. This procedure is called a valvuloplasty.
  • Your surgeon can repair the valve by tightening or replacing an annuplasty ring around the valve. The ring is cloth covered and surrounds the valve to bring the valve leaflets in contact with each other to eliminate or reduce the leak. This procedure is called an annuloplasty. St. Jude Medical manufactures annuplasty rings.
  • Your surgeon can replace the valve with a mechanical or a tissue valve. St. Jude Medical manufactures mechanical and tissue valves.

Heart Transplant

For some people, medications and surgery do not help their heart failure and they may need a replacement heart. While a heart transplant can greatly improve quality of life for someone with heart failure, it is rarely performed because of the scarcity of donor organs and the high cost of the operation. While waiting for a transplant, some patients receive a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), which is a mechanical pump that helps the heart.

Left Ventricular Assist Devices (LVADs)

This mechanical pump is implanted into the abdomen or chest and attached to a weak left ventricle to help it pump. It is used to help prevent further deterioration of the heart while waiting for a heart transplant.

  • The LVAD has a tube that goes into the left ventricle to pull blood from the ventricle into a pump.
  • The pump sends blood into the aorta (the large blood vessel that leaves the left ventricle) to effectively bypass the weakened ventricle.
  • The pump is placed in the upper area of the abdomen.
  • A tube attached to the pump comes out of the abdomen wall to the outside of the body and attached to the control system for the pump.

An LVAD can be used as permanent heart failure therapy.

Last Reviewed: April 25, 2011 V-00304