Coronary artery bypass surgery is a surgical procedure to treat blockages in the coronary arteries. The arteries are bypassed by a blood vessel graft to restore the normal blood flow to the heart. Usually, these grafts are taken from the patient’s arteries and veins located in the chest, leg, or arm. The graft creates a new pathway around the blocked artery to supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart.
The goals of the surgery are to:
- relieve symptoms of coronary artery disease
- enable the patient to resume a normal lifestyle
- lower the risk of heart attack
Coronary artery bypass surgery is an option if you have:
- Severe chest pain
- More than one coronary artery disease
- Severe narrowing or blockage of the left main coronary artery
- Failure of previous angioplasty or stent placement
Coronary artery bypass surgery may also be performed in emergency situations such as a heart attack.
How should I prepare for the surgery?
Before undergoing the surgery, your surgeon will give you instructions about the changes in your diet or medications you should follow. You need to undergo pre-surgical tests often including X-rays and blood tests, etc.
What can I expect during and after the surgery?
The surgery takes about three to six hours and requires general anaesthesia. Most of the surgeries are done through a long incision in the chest while the blood flow is diverted through the heart-lung machine (on-pump coronary bypass surgery).
During the procedure, the surgeon makes an incision down the centre of the chest, along the breastbone or from the lower leg and attaches the ends (above and below) of the blocked artery. This causes the blood flow to get diverted around the narrowed portion of the diseased artery.
Your surgeon may use any of the surgical techniques
Off-pump or beating-heart surgery – This procedure is done on the still-beating heart using special equipment to stabilize the area of the heart.
Minimally invasive surgery – In this procedure, your surgeon performs the surgery by making smaller incisions in the chest without stopping the heart.
After the procedure,
Coronary bypass surgery is a major operation. You need to spend a day or two after the surgery in the intensive care unit. If you do not have any complications, you will be discharged from the hospital within a week. You may find difficulty to perform the daily activities for some days. After reaching home, if you find any of the following signs and symptoms, immediately seek your doctor’s help.
- Rapid heart rate
- New or worsening pain around the chest
- Reddening around your chest
What are the risks associated with the surgery?
Coronary artery bypass surgery is an open-heart surgery. Therefore you may have complications during the procedure. The possible complications of the surgery include:
- Heart rhythm irregularities
- Infections of the wounds
- Memory loss
- Kidney problems
- Heart attack (if blood clot breaks loose soon after surgery)
As this procedure doesn’t cure the underlying heart disease, you need to take medications frequently as prescribed by your doctor. Your doctor may ask you to make some dietary changes, maintain a normal weight, and quit smoking. Do not get worried about the risks associated with the surgery. Seek your doctor’s help if you have misconceptions about this surgery.