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“How Long Is My Heart Iced & Stopped During Surgery?” Asks Steve

Posted by Adam Pick on June 8th, 2012

I just received an interesting email from Steve about the time in which the heart is iced and stopped during heart valve replacement and heart valve repair surgery.

In his email, Steve writes, “Hi Adam – I am having mitral valve repair surgery next month. One glaring question… I’ve read that when the heart is stopped it is “iced” and therefore can last 2-4 hours without tissue damage.  However, a whole bunch of these surgeries take between 4-7 hours, sometimes more. How do we reconcile the discrepancy? Thank you, Steve”

Ice Chips On Heart During Cardiac Surgery
Ice Chips On Heart During Cooling Process

Steve raises a great question. For that reason, I contacted Dr. Marc Gillinov to get a great answer. If you were unaware, Dr. Gillinov is a staff surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, co-author of Heart 411 and a super nice guy.

Dr. Marc Gillinov

In his response, Dr. Gillinov noted:

With current techniques to protect the heart, we can have the heart stopped for 3-4 hours with no problem. For most operations, an hour or two suffices. The entire operation may take 4 or 5 hours, but the heart is only stopped for an hour or two of this total.

As many of patients in our community are fascinated by the medical advances of cardiac surgery, I asked Dr. Gillinov a follow-up question, “Has there been any recent developments or medical advances that have extended the time in which the heart can be stopped safely?”

Dr. Gillinov’s response was direct and simple:

Nothing dramatic or new.

I hope this helped Steve (and perhaps you) learn more about heart valve surgery. Thanks to Steve for his question about icing and stopping the heart. Also, a special thanks to Dr. Marc Gillinov for his ongoing support of our community.

  • To learn more about Dr. Marc Gillinov, please click here.

Keep on tickin!

Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick A dad, a husband and a patient, Adam Pick founded this website in 2006 to educate you about heart valve surgery from diagnosis to recovery.
You can get the latest updates about heart valve surgery from Adam at his Facebook, and Twitter pages. Click here to email him.


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