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HealthInfo Canterbury

Heart bypass & valve surgery

Heart bypass surgery and heart valve replacement are the two most common types of heart surgery.

If you need heart surgery, you'll be referred to a heart surgeon, also called a cardiothoracic surgeon.

Heart bypass surgery

Heart bypass surgery moves a blood vessel from another part of your body to replace a blocked or narrowed artery (blood vessel) in your heart muscle. It's also called coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG).

When blood vessels that feed heart muscle are blocked or narrowed, it can cause angina (chest pains) or heart attacks.

You can read more about heart bypass surgery on the Heart Foundation website.

Heart valve replacement

Your heart has four chambers and four valves (the aortic, pulmonary, mitral and tricuspid valves). These valves keep the blood flowing in one direction. Sometimes heart valves are too tight and don't open easily enough (called stenosis). Sometimes they're too floppy, which allows blood to flow in the wrong direction (regurgitation).

Heart valve problems can affect how your heart works and can cause symptoms like shortness of breath, swollen ankles and chest pain. They can even make you collapse.

Your cardiologist (heart specialist) will usually monitor any heart valve problems over time using echo tests (echocardiograms). Your valves may eventually need to be repaired or replaced.

You can read more about heart valve replacement on the Heart Foundation website.

Recovery after heart surgery

It's normal to experience some pain and discomfort after heart surgery. This leaflet from the Cardiology Department gives advice on what to expect after heart surgery.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by clinical director, Cardiothoracic Department, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed February 2019. Last updated June 2019.

See also:

Overview of surgery

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Review key: HIHDR-25619