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Know your heart procedures

You may have heard terms such as angioplasty and bypass surgery, but you probably aren’t exactly sure what they involve. These are just two of the treatment options medical specialists have to fix heart problems. Here’s a rundown of various heart procedures and exactly what they do:

Coronary bypass surgery. The most common type of heart surgery performed, bypass involves taking a vein or artery from your chest, leg or other location and connecting, or grafting, it to a blocked artery. This graft acts as an alternate route for blood, allowing it to go around the blockage.

Angioplasty. A deflated balloon attached to special tubing is threaded up to the coronary arteries. The balloon is then inflated to help widen blocked arteries and restore blood flow. This procedure is considered less invasive than others because no cutting is involved.

Stent procedure. Often combined with angioplasty, a stent—a wire mesh tube—is inserted into an artery to prop it open. The stent is permanent.

Radiofrequency ablation. Special tubing with an electrode at the tip is steered through the veins to the heart, where radiofrequency energy destroys problem heart muscle areas in order to treat irregular heartbeats, or arrhythmias.

Valve repair or replacement. To fix valves that don’t open as wide as they should or close as tightly as they need to, a surgeon can repair the valve or replace it with an animal valve or one made from an animal, human tissue or a man-made material.

Ventricular assist devices (VADs). If you have heart failure or are waiting for a heart transplant, a mechanical pump called a VAD can be implanted or hooked up to a pump outside your body to help support your heartbeat or take over for it. This device can be used for a short time or years.

Transmyocardial laser revascularization. To treat severe chest pain, or angina in very ill people who aren’t candidates for bypass or angioplasty, a surgeon makes channels in the heart muscle, which allow oxygen-carrying blood to move from the heart chamber to the heart muscle.