to view an animated version of this procedure.
A coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) is an open-heart surgery to restore blood flow to the heart muscle. A part of a blood vessel from another part of the body is attached to a blocked artery of the heart. The attached blood vessel creates a new path for blood to flow around the blockage.
Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery
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is a common disease of the arteries. Over time cholesterol and fats collect on the walls of blood vessels and form a plaque. As the plaque grows, it decrease the amount of space that blood has to pass through and slows blood flow to the heart muscle. This low blood flow can lead to chest pain called, angina. Eventually, plaque can cause the blood vessel to tear and form a blood clot which can completely block blood flow and lead to a
heart attack or death.
CABG is done if there are severe blockages in arteries of the heart that are causing problems with the function of the heart. CABG may be an option if other treatment are ineffective or not a good option. It may be done:
After or during a heart attack To treat angina that is not responding to other treatment
To prepare for surgery, your doctor may need some of the following: Physical examChest x-rayElectrocardiogram
(EKG)—shows heart's electrical activity
Cardiac catheterization—procedure to determine amount of blockage
Talk to your doctor about your medication. You may need to stop taking certain medication for one week before surgery.
Your doctor may also ask you to: Eat a light meal the night before. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.Arrange for a ride to and from the hospital.Arrange for help at home after the procedure.
An incision will be made through the skin. The breastbone will be split to open the chest. For traditional CABG, a heart-lung machine will be connected to major blood vessels of the heart. The machine will act as the heart and lungs during the surgery so that blood and oxygen will continue to flow through the body while the heart is repaired.
An artery will be taken from the chest wall or a section of a vein will be removed from the leg. The new vessel section will be connected by the blocked arteries. One end of the new vessel will be attached just above the blockage. The other end will be attached just below the blockage. When the new vessel is in place, the heart will be allowed to wake up. Electrical shocks may be needed in some cases to make sure the heart is beating with the right rhythm. Once the doctor is sure that blood is flowing well, the heart-lung machine will be disconnected. Temporary tubes may be placed in your chest to help drain any fluid. The breastbone will be wired together. The chest will be closed with stitches or staples.
There is a less invasive approach, called minimally invasive coronary artery surgery. The purpose of this surgery is the same, but the technique and condition of the patient are different. Patients who have only one or two clogged arteries may be candidates for this approach. In this technique, a small incision is made in the chest. The doctor usually uses an artery from inside the chest for the bypass. The key difference in this technique is that the doctor performs the surgery while the heart is beating. With this technique, the heart-lung machine is not needed. If you need CABG, your doctor will carefully evaluate you to determine the best technique for you.
Recovery will happen in the intensive care unit, to provide monitoring and support if needed. Care may include: Heart monitorPacing wires to control heart rateTubes connected to a machine to drain fluids from the woundBreathing tube or an oxygen maskCatheter inserted to drain the bladder
Anesthesia prevents pain during surgery. There will be pain for a few weeks after the surgery because of the chest opening. You will be given medication and support tips to help manage pain during recovery.
Dressings will be removed in 1-2 days. Pacing wires and chest tubes will be removed after a few days. Your medical team will encourage movement and other steps to help prevent complications after surgery. Step may include: Frequent deep breathing and coughing exercise to prevent fluid build up in the lungs.
Walking as soon as possible after surgery to prevent blood clots in legs.
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as: Washing their handsWearing gloves or masksKeeping your incisions covered
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chances of infection during recovery such as: Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and healthcare providers to do the sameReminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masksNot allowing others to touch your incisions
You will have reduced activities during your recovery. A cardiac rehabilitation program will be arranged. You may need to work with a dietitian for a special diet. Recovery may include: Medications to control pain and heart diseaseWound care to prevent infectionChecking your weight every morning
Bypass surgery does not cure heart disease. The grafted blood vessels or other heart vessels can become clogged later on. You will be encouraged to make healthy lifestyle changes to prevent future complications.
It is important for you to monitor your recovery after you leave the hospital. Alert your doctor to any problems right away. If any of the following occur, call your doctor: Pain that you cannot control with the medication you've been givenSigns of infection, including fever and chillsRedness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge at the incision sitesPersistent nausea and/or vomitingCough, shortness of breath, or chest painPain, burning, urgency, frequency of urination, or persistent blood in the urineGaining more than 4 pounds within 1-2 daysPain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs, or sudden shortness of breath or chest pain
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Coronary artery bypass graft surgery. Cardio Smart website. Available at:
https://www.cardiosmart.org/Healthwise/hw10/1095/hw101095. Accessed September 17, 2012.
Explore coronary artery bypass grafting. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at:
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/cabg. Updated February 23, 2012. Accessed September 17, 2012.
Last reviewed December 2016 by Michael J. Fucci, DO
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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