Heart surgery

Operating theatre

For some people with heart disease, surgery is the best treatment option currently available.

Innovations in patient care

Surgical techniques have improved a great deal over the years as our understanding of heart conditions grows.

Your donations have supported important innovations in patient care during coronary heart disease surgery for several decades.

Before the BHF was established, treatments for cardiac events were limited to pain relief and bed rest. We have helped pioneer new treatments and surgeries, meaning outcomes have significantly improved over the last five decades. The UK mortality rate following cardiac surgery is now just 2.5%.

More research is vital to help us reduce the risk and trauma of surgery, as well as improve ways to replace surgical procedures with alternatives.

Protecting the heart during surgery

The heart usually has its blood supply cut off during surgery. In the 1970s, along with the Wellcome Trust, we funded a team from St Thomas’ Hospital to develop a way to protect the heart when it loses the blood supply.

The team developed the 'St Thomas' Hospital cardioplegic solution' - a liquid mixture that can preserve and protect the heart, giving surgeons more time to operate safely.

The solution has been used in operating theatres around the world and helped thousands of hearts recover from surgery.

More recent research suggests that restricting blood flow to the arm could help to protect hearts during surgery.

Heart transplant success

Our pioneering research with Professors Sir Magdi Yacoub and Sir Terence English in the 1980s played a big part in making the heart transplant a surgical success story.

And today, half the hearts transplanted ten years ago are still going strong for people who would otherwise have had only months to live.

Sir Magdi Yacoub has also led innovations in surgery to help failing hearts recover.

Beating heart surgery

BHF Professor Gianni Angelini in Bristol has developed techniques allowing the heart to keeping beating during coronary artery bypass operations. Short-term, this showed fewer post-surgery complications for patients. We are still supporting Professor Angelini to assess the longer term benefits for heart patients.

The future for heart surgery

Reducing rejection

Heart transplant is a successful procedure. But the medicines which transplant patients must take to control their immune responses against their new heart leave them more vulnerable to illness. We are funding projects aiming to reveal how we can stop the rejection, and help patients stay healthy for longer.

Lowering transfusion risk

Recent research by Professor Angelini's Bristol team has shown that blood transfusions during surgery can cause health complications. They hope their research will lead to evidence-based guidelines on which patients really need extra blood.

Support heart research

We need your donations to help us fund more cutting-edge heart research.