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What To Expect During Total Artificial Heart Surgery

Total artificial heart (TAH) surgery is complex and can take between 5 and 9 hours. It requires many experts and assistants. As many as 15 people might be in the operating room during surgery.

The team for TAH surgery includes:

  • Surgeons who do the operation
  • Surgical nurses who assist the surgeons
  • Anesthesiologists who are in charge of the medicine that makes you sleep during surgery
  • Perfusionists who are in charge of the heart-lung bypass machine that keeps blood flowing through your body while the TAH is put in your chest
  • Engineers who are trained to assemble the TAH and make sure it's working well

Before the surgery, you're given medicine to make you sleep. During the surgery, the anesthesiologist checks your heartbeat, blood pressure, oxygen levels, and breathing.

A breathing tube is placed in your windpipe through your throat. This tube is connected to a ventilator (a machine that supports breathing).

A cut is made down the center of your chest. The chest bone is then cut and your ribcage is opened so the surgeon can reach your heart.

Medicines are used to stop your heart. This allows the surgeons to operate on your heart while it's still. A heart-lung bypass machine keeps oxygen-rich blood moving through your body during surgery.

Heart-Lung Bypass Machine

The illustration shows how a heart-lung bypass machine works during surgery.

The image shows how a heart-lung bypass machine works during surgery.

The surgeons remove your heart's ventricles and attach the TAH to the upper chambers of your heart. When everything is properly attached, the heart-lung bypass machine is switched off and the TAH starts pumping.

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July 06, 2012 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.