Open-heart surgery is any kind of surgery in which a surgeon makes a large incision (cut) in the chest to open the rib cage and operate on the heart. “Open” refers to the chest, not the heart. Depending on the type of surgery, the surgeon also may open the heart.

Once the heart is exposed, the patient is connected to a heart-lung bypass machine. The machine takes over the heart’s pumping action and moves blood away from the heart. This allows the surgeon to operate on a heart that isn’t beating and that doesn’t have blood flowing through it.

Open-heart surgery is used to do CABG, repair or replace heart valves, treat atrial fibrillation, do heart transplants, and place VADs and TAHs.

Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.