The goals of a cardiac surgical procedure are both technical excellence and complete protection of cardiac function.
The goals of a cardiac surgical procedure are both technical excellence and complete protection of cardiac function. Cardioplegia is used almost universally to protect the heart and provide a quiet bloodless field for surgical accuracy. Yet, despite the importance of myocardial protection in cardiac surgery, manuscripts or dedicated sessions at major meetings on this subject have become relatively rare, as though contemporary techniques now make them unnecessary. Nevertheless, septal dysfunction and haemodynamic support (inotropes, intra-aortic balloon pump, assist devices) are common in postoperative patients, indicating that myocardial damage following cardiac surgery is still prevalent with current cardioplegic techniques and solutions. This article first describes why cardiac enzymes and septal function are the ideal markers for determining the adequacy of myocardial protection. It also describes the underappreciated consequences of postoperative cardiac enzyme release or septal dysfunction (which currently occurs in 40–80% of patients) from inadequate protection, and how they directly correlate with early and especially late mortality. Finally, it reviews the various myocardial protection techniques available to provide a detailed understanding of the cardioplegic methods that can be utilized to protect the heart. This will allow surgeons to critically assess their current method of protection and, if needed, make necessary changes to provide their patients with optimal protection.
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