About this service
Also known as CABG, Coronary Bypass Surgery restores blood flow to your heart muscle by diverting the flow of blood around a section of a blocked artery in your heart.
Blockages in the heart are caused by a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries (atherosclerosis). If left to develop, these fatty deposits will lead to an increased risk of developing coronary artery disease and possible heart failure or a heart attack.
The goal of bypass surgery is to improve the quality of life and/or to improve the life expectancy of a patient for whom the treatment for these blockages with medications and various other medical procedures has not been enough.
Having this surgery does not cure coronary artery disease. It is essential to your recovery that you continue to pay attention to and modify your risk factors – this may include weight loss, smoking cessation, changes to your diet and regular exercise.
This procedure generally takes between three and six hours to complete.
The number of bypasses required depends on the location and severity of blockages in your heart.
Accessing the heart
You will receive a general anaesthetic which means that you will not be awake or feel any pain throughout the procedure.
Once asleep, a breathing tube is inserted through your mouth. This tube attaches to a ventilator, which breathes for you during and immediately after the surgery. In some cases, surgeons will perform off-pump or beating heart surgery, meaning the patient's own heart is still beating, without the help of a machine. This type of surgery is challenging because the heart is still moving and therefore not an option for everyone.
A bypass graft is used to go around the obstructed part of a coronary artery. The grafts are blood vessels and can come from a number of locations – from the leg, the inside of the chest or the arm. The surgeon takes a section of healthy blood vessel from one of the above locations, and attaches the ends above and below the blocked artery so that blood flow is diverted (bypassed) around the narrowed portion of the diseased artery.
After the grafts have been completed, the heart-lung machine is switched off, if it has been used during the procedure. The heart will start beating on its own again, and the flow of blood returns to normal.
Following the procedure:
- You will stay in the Intensive Care Unit for one to two days.
- Full recovery will take six to twelve weeks.
- In most cases a return to work and exercise is possible after six weeks, but only following the advice of your consultant.
- Your results and long-term outcome will be enhanced by taking your medication as directed and following healthy lifestyle recommendations provided by your cardiac team.