What Does Infant Open Heart Surgery Look Like?
In order to access the heart, a surgeon has to open it. The sternum or breast bone has to be cut through so that the surgeon can access the heart. The procedure is called sternotomy. This usually raises much concern for many parents. However, it is considered as one of the safest incisions performed in a surgery. Sternotomy is repaired like an artificial fracture where the edges of the breast bone are joined using steel wires at the end of the procedure. This usually will not result to any deformity in the chest wall.
Pain often arises from any movement at the area of fracture in the bones. Infants usually lack muscle mass in the chest wall to push the sternal edges and feel the pain. Thus, most infants are discharged and given with simple medications such as Tylenol after the procedure.
Removal of Thymus Gland
Once the chest has been opened, surgeons will remove either a part or the entire thymus gland. While the thymus gland is part of the immune system, there has been no indication that removal of the gland will compromise the immune system of the infant. The removal of the gland will also allow the surgeon to operate on the heart.
Operating on the Heart
The heart is located in the pericardium, a thin and leather-like sac. In order to access the heart, the pericardial sac needs to be opened. The surgeon usually removes a small part of the pericardium, and used later on for patching defects in areas of the heart. The removed piece is often treated with a solution that can make the pericardium stiffer and thus easier to use later on.
The removed piece is then utilized in the operation to patch a variety of defects in the heart. There is usually no need to replace the pericardial sac which was removed. But in some instances, a piece of synthetic material can be used to replace the used pericardial sac.