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Coronary bypass surgery

When arteries in the heart become partially or fully blocked, it can prevent adequate blood flow and proper functioning of the heart muscle. Coronary bypass surgery diverts blood flow by creating a new pathway around a blocked heart artery, restoring proper heart function.

During the procedure, a healthy section of blood vessel is grafted from an arm, leg, or chest and is connected to the affected coronary artery to bypass the blockage.

Common symptoms of coronary artery disease like chest pain or shortness of breath typically improve after coronary bypass surgery. Heart function improves, and the risk of dying of heart disease decreases.

Are you a candidate for Coronary Bypass Surgery?

Your doctor will discuss whether coronary bypass surgery is the best option for you. You may be a good candidate for the procedure if:

  • Arteries that supply your heart with blood are narrowed to the point of leaving you severely fatigued after even light exercise
  • More than one of your coronary arteries are blocked, resulting in dysfunction of your heart’s main chamber – the left ventricle
  • The coronary artery that supplies the majority of the blood to your left ventricle is severely blocked or restricted
  • Your blockage is not a candidate for angioplasty, or you’ve had an unsuccessful angioplasty in the past
  • You’ve had a stent placed in the past, but the artery has become blocked again

Coronary bypass surgery can also be conducted during an emergency like a heart attack if you are not responding to other treatments.

While a coronary bypass can eliminate a blockage, it does not address the underlying cause of why that blockage happened in the first place. If you have coronary artery disease, making healthy lifestyle changes is necessary for your long-term health. Medications to regulate cholesterol and reduce the likelihood of a blood clot forming are common after coronary bypass, in order to eliminate as many risk factors as possible.

What to Expect from Coronary Bypass Surgery

The procedure can take up to six hours, and general anesthesia is required. Depending on the location and severity of the coronary blockages, multiple bypasses may be required.

Coronary bypass surgeries are typically carried out via an incision in the chest, with blood flow being diverted from the heart to a heart-lung machine. Your surgeon will remove a small section of blood vessel from your chest or lower leg, attaching it above and below the blocked section of artery, bypassing it.

Coronary Bypass Recovery

As with other major surgeries, you can expect to spend at least a day in the Intensive Care Unit following your coronary bypass. Your blood pressure, heart rate, and other vitals will be closely monitored.

Each case is unique, but most patients are discharged within a week, though you will not be able to return to your normal daily activities immediately. Recovery can take from six to 12 weeks, after which you will be able to return to work and your daily routine.

Coronary Bypass Results

Most patients see a marked improvement in their quality of life and can remain symptom-free up to 15 years. Without lifestyle changes to correct the root cause of the artery-clogging, it is likely that other areas of your coronary arteries, or even the bypass, will lose function over time and require another procedure.

To make the most of your procedure, do the following:

  • Quit smoking
  • Maintain a healthy diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Keep your weight in a healthy range
  • Make exercise a part of your weekly routine
  • Take measures to keep your stress levels manageable

Patients who trust their coronary bypass procedure to an experienced physician can expect a favorable outcome, smooth recovery, and long-lasting results.