You can often prevent or treat heart disease with healthy lifestyle choices and regular medical care. However, if you have heart disease, you may someday need a treatment procedure. Procedures can prevent permanent heart damage and serious problems, such as heart failure and cardiac arrest. There are many different medical and surgical procedures and treatments for different heart conditions.
Procedures to Open Blocked Blood Vessels
If you have coronary heart disease, the coronary arteries that supply your heart muscle with blood are narrowed with fatty plaques. This can lead to a complete blockage of one or more coronary arteries, causing a heart attack. Your procedure options to treat narrowed or blocked coronary arteries may include:
Angioplasty and stent placement. Angioplasty opens a narrowed or blocked coronary artery with special tools attached to a catheter, which is a thin, flexible and hollow tube. Your doctor threads the catheter through a blood vessel in your groin. Once in place, the tools open your artery by removing or compressing the blockage. Often, your doctor will place a stent to keep your artery open.
Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG). CABG (pronounced “cabbage”) reroutes blood around your blocked coronary artery through a new graft artery. Traditional CABG is a major surgical procedure that requires cutting through your breastbone. The newer, minimally invasive CABG involves smaller, less traumatic incisions. CABG is commonly known as heart bypass surgery.
Procedures to Repair or Replace Diseased Heart Valves
Blood may not flow through your heart normally if you have damaged or diseased heart valves. Heart valve disease includes both valves that don’t open wide enough (stenosis) and valves that don’t close properly (regurgitation). Procedures your doctor may recommend to treat valve disease include:
Heart valve repair includes a variety of methods to fix a damaged or diseased valve. Because repairing a heart valve has a lower risk of problems after surgery, doctors generally prefer it over replacing a heart valve if possible.
Heart valve replacement involves replacing a faulty valve with an animal (pig or cow), human, or man-made valve, called a prosthesis.
Procedures to Treat an Abnormal Heart Rhythm
If your heart beats irregularly, too fast, or too slow, it can cause serious problems, such as stroke or cardiac arrest. Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) are caused by abnormal electrical impulses that stimulate your heart to beat in an erratic, sluggish, or rapid way. Procedures treat arrhythmias by resetting or changing your heart’s electrical impulses and include:
Catheter ablation destroys or changes the heart tissue that is conducting abnormal electrical impulses. To do this, your doctor passes tiny catheters into your heart and applies either heat or cold energy through them.
Cardioversion converts an abnormal heart rhythm back to a normal heart rhythm with either a medication or an electric current. If your doctor recommends electric cardioversion, he or she will use electrodes or electric paddles on your chest and back.
Pacemaker surgically implanted in your chest or abdomen. Wires connect the electrical device to your heart and stimulate a normal heartbeat with electricity.
Defibrillator surgically implanted in your chest or abdomen. The defibrillator shocks your heart back to a normal rhythm if it goes into a deadly rhythm.
The decision to have a treatment procedure for heart disease is challenging. Consider getting a second opinion about your treatment options and ask each doctor about your specific risks and benefits.