Coronary bypass surgery treats heart disease caused by blocked arteries. It creates a new route for blood to reach your heart by harvesting good vessels from elsewhere in your body (i.e. legs) and attaching them where the obstructions lie. It's appropriately named since it “by-passes” the barrier.
Valve disease has two therapies, non-surgical and surgical. The first, valvuloplasty, is done using the same (previously explained) method for angioplasty. The difference between the two is the balloon-type apparatus is used to repair damaged and/or non-working valve(s) rather than arteries or veins. Valves are also surgically repaired and replaced.
If your heart can’t sustain a normal, consistent pace and/or cadence, you have arrhythmia. Some types are atrial fibrillation (“a-fib” or flutter), too fast (tachycardia), and inadequately slow (bradycardia).
The most common treatments to normalize your heart are defibrillation techniques (cardioversion or electro-cardioversion), a pacemaker, and medication. Cardioversion, a non-invasive procedure like angioplasty, uses electric shock(s) to regulate heart patterns. Using electrodes placed on your chest or external paddles, when applied, they deliver electronic jolts that synchronize your heart beats. Occasionally, prescription meds are sufficient.
Pacemakers are small “miracles” that monitor and control heartbeat. Placed just below the skin, they have sensor-tipped wires that connect to your heart. When it’s acting abnormally, the device sends electrical impulses to correct the problem. Similarly, implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs) are used for those with high risk of sudden cardiac arrest
If chest pain (angina) or arrhythmia persist, another procedure, “ablation,” is a useful tool. It’s used to (safely) destroy specifically targeted areas of your heart where problems remain. This, too, is performed both surgically and non-surgically. .
A heart transplant is the last option after all else has been tried and failed. It’s the most difficult therapy of all: more dangerous, invasive and limiting. Furthermore, it has the highest potential for the greatest pre- and post-op problems.
Its major challenge is the crucial need to limit rejection. That means finding a matching donor that meets stringent criteria, i.e. size, condition, blood type, and proximity. National registries facilitate some of these obstacles. That’s why they’ve grown in numbers and safety.
The last installment, Section 8, offers some fun, little-known, and interesting “heart trivia.” To see it, watch for the final wrap-up (of this series) next week.