Friday, August 13, 2010

Cardiology Blog #3: Cardiothoracic Surgery (CT)

This week I was in the Cardiothoracic Surgery (CT Surgery) unit and had the opportunity to watch multiple open-heart procedures. One interesting thing I have learned at the hospital is that all the different areas of Cardiology connect because in order to evaluate patients the doctors must unite to treat patients’ problems to the best of their ability. For example, the CT surgeons use angiograms to determine how severe the patients condition is, and where they will need to use a CABG (Coronary Artery Bypass Grafts ) to supply the heart with blood flow. Echocardiograms are also used in order for the surgeons to determine how the heart is pumping the blood and whether the valves are functioning properly.
I started off the week by attending a morning conference and learned about the anatomy of the thoracic cavity. Then I followed the cardiothoracic surgeons on their rounds for patients that were post-operative. The doctors examined the patients to evaluate the healing of their surgery incision and checked the overall appearance and lifestyle of the patients two to three weeks post-operation. During the patient evaluations I was able to meet patients that had received valve replacements, Coronary Artery Bypass Grafts (CABG) and people that had Pulmonary Emboli and blood clots removed.
The first surgery I was able to observe was an Aortic Valve Replacement (AVR). This surgery was five hours long and was incredible. The surgeon first ‘cracked open’ the patient’s sternum and helped control bleeding in order to enter the heart with minimal disturbances. A hypothermia protocol and bypass was done in order to preserve brain function and provide the rest of the body with blood flow during the procedure. It was amazing to me that the mechanical valve looked very similar to the congenital valve that everyone is born with. It was also interesting how quickly patients recover after such an intense surgery.
The next two days I was able to watch a double CABG, and a quadruple CABG. These procedures were unbelievable because I was able to watch the heart beat inside of the patient’s chest, and overlooked the surgery standing on a stool in the operating room. During this procedure they remove a vein from the leg and graft it from the aorta to various coronary arteries to supply areas of the heart that aren’t receiving enough blood supply due to severe coronary artery disease.
Seeing the open-heart surgeries in CT surgery was an incredible experience that I will never forget. I have learned so much and really been able to put all the knowledge I’ve gained the past 6 weeks into practical use.

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