Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG) [Pronounced cabbage]

Coronary artery bypass grafting is a type of surgery that restores blood flow in the coronary arteries.

The coronary arteries supply oxygen-rich blood and nutrients to your heart. Sometimes these arteries become blocked because of coronary artery disease.

Partially blocked arteries can cause chest pain during physical activity. If an artery becomes totally blocked, it causes a heart attack.

Usually, your health care provider will plan this surgery in advance, after tests have shown blockages in your heart vessels. Other times, the surgery is done as an emergency, such as right after a heart attack.

Your provider may recommend bypass surgery if you're taking medications for coronary artery disease and still have symptoms. You may also need this surgery if you have blockages in an area that can't be reached with angioplasty, or if you have a complete or almost complete blockage in one of the main coronary arteries.

Before the Procedure

Your provider will give you instructions about how to prepare for bypass surgery. Don't eat or drink anything after midnight the day before your surgery.

If you're a woman, be sure to tell your health care provider if you're pregnant or might be pregnant. Tell your health care provider about all of the medications and supplements you take, if you have any allergies and ask your doctor ahead of time if there are any medications you should stop taking before your surgery.

Your provider will explain what happens during the procedure. He or she will also talk with you about any risks or complications that may happen.

You'll be asked to sign a consent form that gives your health care provider permission to do the procedure. Read the form carefully and ask questions if anything is not clear.

Wat to Expect

Before surgery, an anesthesiologist will give you medicine to put you to sleep. You won't feel anything that happens during the surgery.

Your heart will be stopped for a short time during the surgery. A heart-lung machine will work as your heart during this time.

Your surgeon will make a cut in the skin over your breastbone and then open the breastbone to get to your heart.

Then he or she will take a healthy blood vessel from somewhere else in your body. It may be from your arm, leg, or from within your chest itself.

The blood vessel is attached above and below the blocked area of your artery, creating a bridge or a bypass, so your heart can get enough blood.

Some newer types of bypass surgery are different. They use several smaller chest incisions, and may not require a heart-lung machine.
When the bypass is complete, the incisions will be closed with stitches or staples. You will be moved to a recovery room where your breathing, blood pressure, and heart rhythm will be watched.

After the Procedure

You will spend a day or two in the intensive care unit. You'll be connected to machines that monitor your heart, blood pressure, and breathing. You may have a number of tubes to help you breathe and urinate. You'll have some soreness for several days.

You'll probably need to spend at least five days in the hospital.
When you go home, your provider will give you instructions about medications, exercise, and wound care.

It may take six weeks to three months to fully recover.

Things to Remember

Bypass surgery uses a piece of another blood vessel from your body to bypass a blocked coronary artery.
Not everyone with coronary artery disease needs bypass surgery.
It can take weeks or months to fully recover from bypass surgery.

What We Have Learned

During bypass surgery, your surgeon takes a healthy blood vessel from somewhere else in your body to build a bypass around the clogged area in your artery. True or False? The answer is true. This type of surgery restores blood flow to your heart and relieves symptoms like chest pain.

You should be able to go home a day or two after surgery. True or False? The answer is false.  You will need to stay in the hospital for several days after your surgery. It may take six weeks to three months to fully recover.