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Heart bypass surgery

Show Alternative Names
Off-pump coronary artery bypass
OPCAB
Beating heart surgery
Bypass surgery - heart
CABG
Coronary artery bypass graft
Coronary artery bypass surgery
Coronary bypass surgery

Heart bypass surgery creates a new route, called a bypass, for blood and oxygen to reach your heart.

Video Transcript

Heart bypass surgery - Animation

This animation shows the procedure of a heart bypass surgery.

Description

Before your surgery you will get general anesthesia. You will be asleep and pain-free during surgery.

Most people are connected to a heart-lung bypass machine.

  • Your heart is stopped while you are connected to this machine.
  • This machine does the work of your heart while your heart is stopped for the surgery. The machine adds oxygen to your blood, and moves blood through your body.

The heart surgeon will make an 8 - 10-inch cut in the middle of your chest. Your breastbone will be separated to create an opening. This allows your surgeon to see your heart and aorta, the main blood vessel leading from the heart to the rest of your body.

A newer type of bypass surgery does not use the heart-lung bypass machine. The bypass is made while your heart is still beating. This is called off-pump coronary artery bypass, or OPCAB. Your surgeon will talk to you about which type of surgery is best for you.

During bypass surgery:

  • The doctor takes a vein or artery from another part of your body and uses it to make a detour (or graft) around the blocked area in your artery.
  • Your doctor may use a vein, called the saphenous vein, from your leg. To reach this vein, a cut will be made along the inside of your leg, between your ankle and groin. One end of the graft will be sewn to your coronary artery. The other end will be sewn to an opening made in your aorta.
  • A blood vessel in your chest, called the internal mammary artery (IMA), can also be used as the graft. One end of this artery is already connected to your aorta. The other end is attached to your coronary artery.
  • Other arteries can also be used for grafts in bypass surgery. The most common one is the radial artery in your forearm.

After the grafts have been created, your breastbone will be closed with wires or cables. These will stay inside you. The surgical cut will be closed with stitches.

This surgery can take 4 - 6 hours. After the surgery, you will be taken to the intensive care unit.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

You may need this procedure if you have a blockage in one or more of your coronary arteries. Coronary arteries are the small blood vessels that supply your heart with oxygen and nutrients that are carried in your blood.

When one or more of the coronary arteries becomes partly or totally blocked, your heart does not get enough blood. This is called ischemic heart disease, or coronary artery disease (CAD). It can cause chest pain (angina).

Coronary artery bypass surgery can be used to treat coronary artery disease. Your doctor may have first tried to treat you with medicines. You may have also tried exercise and diet changes, or angioplasty with stent placement.

Risks

Coronary artery disease is different from person to person. The way it is diagnosed and treated will also vary. Heart bypass surgery is just one treatment. It is not right for everyone.

Possible risks from having coronary bypass surgery include:

  • Chest wound infection, which is more likely to happen if you are obese, have diabetes, or have already had this surgery
  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Heart rhythm problems
  • Kidney or lung failure
  • Low fever and chest pain, together called post-pericardiotomy syndrome, which can last up to 6 months
  • Memory loss, loss of mental clarity, or "fuzzy thinking"
  • Stroke 

Before the Procedure

Always tell your doctor or nurse what drugs you are taking, even drugs or herbs you bought without a prescription.

During the days before your surgery:

  • For the 2-week period before surgery you may be asked to stop taking drugs that make it harder for your blood to clot. These include aspirin, ibuprofen (such as Advil and Motrin), naproxen (such as Aleve and Naprosyn), and other similar drugs. If you are taking clopidogrel (Plavix), talk with your surgeon about when to stop taking it.
  • Ask your doctor which drugs you should still take on the day of the surgery.
  • If you smoke, try to stop. Ask your doctor for help.
  • Contact your doctor if you have a cold, flu, fever, herpes breakout, or any other illness.
  • Prepare your home so you can move around easily when you return from the hospital.

The day before your surgery:

  • Shower and shampoo well.
  • You may be asked to wash your whole body below your neck with a special soap. Scrub your chest two or three times with this soap.

On the day of the surgery:

  • You will usually be asked not to drink or eat anything after midnight the night before your surgery. This includes chewing gum and breath mints. Rinse your mouth with water if it feels dry, but be careful not to swallow.
  • Take any medications that your doctor told you to take with a small sip of water.

Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to arrive at the hospital.

After the Procedure

After the operation, you will spend 3 - 7 days in the hospital. You will spend the first night in an intensive care unit (ICU). You will probably be moved to a regular or transitional care room within 24 hours.

Two to three tubes will be in your chest to drain fluid from around your heart. They are usually removed 1 to 3 days after surgery.

You may have a catheter (flexible tube) in your bladder to drain urine. You may also have intravenous (IV) lines for fluids. Machines will monitor your pulse, temperature, and breathing. Nurses will watch your monitors constantly.

You will be able to start some activities and may begin a cardiac rehab program within a few days.

It takes 4 - 6 weeks to start feeling better after surgery. Your health care providers will tell you how to take care of yourself at home.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Recovery from surgery takes time. You may not see the full benefits of your surgery for 3 to 6 months. In most people who have heart bypass surgery, the grafts stay open and work well for many years.

This surgery does not prevent the coronary artery blockage from coming back. You slow this process by controlling your heart disease risk factors.

You may be more likely to have problems with your blood vessels if you have kidney disease or continue to smoke.

Text only

Review Date: 6/6/2013

Reviewed By

Matthew M. Cooper, MD, FACS, Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgery; Medical Director, CareCore National, Bluffton, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

References

Ferraris VA, Mentzer RM Jr. Acquired heart disease: coronary insufficiency. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 61.

Gopaldas RR, Chu D, Bakaeen FD. Acquired heart disease: coronary insufficiency. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2012:chap 60.

Morrow DA, Boden WE. Stable ischemic heart disease. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 57.

Greenhalgh J, Hockenhull J, Rao N, Dundar Y, Dickson RC, Bagust A. Drug-eluting stents versus bare metal stents for angina or acute coronary syndromes. Cochrane Database of Syst Rev. 2010:5:CD004587. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004587.pub2.

Moller CH, Penninga L, Wettersley J, Steinbruchel DA, Gluud C. Off-pump versus on-pump coronary artery bypass grafting for ischaemic heart disease. Cochrane Database of Syst Rev. 2012:3:CD007224. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007224.pub2.

Disclaimer

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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Images
Heart bypass surgery

Heart bypass surgery

Animation

Heart, front view - Illustration Thumbnail

Heart, front view

The external structures of the heart include the ventricles, atria, arteries and veins. Arteries carry blood away from the heart while veins carry blood into the heart. The vessels colored blue indicate the transport of blood with relatively low content of oxygen and high content of carbon dioxide. The vessels colored red indicate the transport of blood with relatively high content of oxygen and low content of carbon dioxide.

Illustration

Posterior heart arteries - Illustration Thumbnail

Posterior heart arteries

The coronary arteries supply blood to the heart muscle. The right coronary artery supplies both the left and the right heart; the left coronary artery supplies the left heart.

Illustration

Anterior heart arteries - Illustration Thumbnail

Anterior heart arteries

The coronary arteries supply blood to the heart muscle. The right coronary artery supplies both the left and the right heart; the left coronary artery supplies the left heart.

Illustration

Atherosclerosis - Illustration Thumbnail

Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is a disease of the arteries in which fatty material is deposited in the vessel wall, resulting in narrowing and eventual impairment of blood flow. Severely restricted blood flow in the arteries to the heart muscle leads to symptoms such as chest pain. Atherosclerosis shows no symptoms until a complication occurs.

Illustration

Heart bypass surgery - series - Presentation Thumbnail

Heart bypass surgery - series

Presentation

Heart bypass surgery - series - Normal anatomyIndicationsProcedure, part 1Procedure, part 2Procedure, part 3Aftercare
 
Heart bypass surgery

Heart bypass surgery

Animation

Heart, front view - Illustration Thumbnail

Heart, front view

The external structures of the heart include the ventricles, atria, arteries and veins. Arteries carry blood away from the heart while veins carry blood into the heart. The vessels colored blue indicate the transport of blood with relatively low content of oxygen and high content of carbon dioxide. The vessels colored red indicate the transport of blood with relatively high content of oxygen and low content of carbon dioxide.

Illustration

Posterior heart arteries - Illustration Thumbnail

Posterior heart arteries

The coronary arteries supply blood to the heart muscle. The right coronary artery supplies both the left and the right heart; the left coronary artery supplies the left heart.

Illustration

Anterior heart arteries - Illustration Thumbnail

Anterior heart arteries

The coronary arteries supply blood to the heart muscle. The right coronary artery supplies both the left and the right heart; the left coronary artery supplies the left heart.

Illustration

Atherosclerosis - Illustration Thumbnail

Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is a disease of the arteries in which fatty material is deposited in the vessel wall, resulting in narrowing and eventual impairment of blood flow. Severely restricted blood flow in the arteries to the heart muscle leads to symptoms such as chest pain. Atherosclerosis shows no symptoms until a complication occurs.

Illustration

Heart bypass surgery - series - Presentation Thumbnail

Heart bypass surgery - series

Presentation

Heart bypass surgery - series - Normal anatomyIndicationsProcedure, part 1Procedure, part 2Procedure, part 3Aftercare
 
 

Heart bypass surgery - Animation

Heart bypass surgery creates a new route, called a bypass, for blood and oxygen to reach the heart. Heart bypass surgery begins with an incision in the chest, and the breastbone is cut exposing the heart. Next, a portion of the saphenous vein, which is very large, is harvested from the inside of the leg. Pieces of this large vein are used to bypass the blocked coronary arteries, which are arteries that supply blood to the heart. The venous graft is sewn to the aorta, the main artery of the body, and to the affected coronary artery, to bypass the blocked site. The internal mammary artery from the chest may also be used to bypass a clogged artery. Several arteries may be bypassed depending on the condition of the heart. After the graft is created, the breastbone and chest are closed.
 

Heart bypass surgery - Animation

Heart bypass surgery creates a new route, called a bypass, for blood and oxygen to reach the heart. Heart bypass surgery begins with an incision in the chest, and the breastbone is cut exposing the heart. Next, a portion of the saphenous vein, which is very large, is harvested from the inside of the leg. Pieces of this large vein are used to bypass the blocked coronary arteries, which are arteries that supply blood to the heart. The venous graft is sewn to the aorta, the main artery of the body, and to the affected coronary artery, to bypass the blocked site. The internal mammary artery from the chest may also be used to bypass a clogged artery. Several arteries may be bypassed depending on the condition of the heart. After the graft is created, the breastbone and chest are closed.
 
 
 
 

 

 
 

 
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