Cardiac Bypass Surgery

When the heart is functioning normally, the arteries are clear and open to allow for easy passage of blood through and out of the heart.

However, over time, plaque and other substances may build up in the arteries due to a variety of causes, including coronary artery disease. This blockage can result in diminished blood flow that keeps the rest of the body from getting the essential oxygen it needs to survive and function.

When a blockage is first discovered, a physician may typically recommend you undergo an angioplasty and heart stenting to reopen the blocked artery. While this is often effective, for some patients it is not.

If that is the case, you may require cardiac bypass surgery, also known as coronary artery bypass grafting or heart bypass surgery.

Because blockages reduce blood flow and keep vital oxygen from being moved throughout the body, the goal of cardiac bypass surgery is to restore blood flow.

Angioplasty reopens blocked arteries, but a cardiac bypass works differently. During a bypass procedure, your cardiovascular surgeon will essentially create a new path for blood to flow. This involves taking a healthy blood vessel from somewhere else in the body — most commonly a vein from the leg or an artery from the chest or wrist — and attaching it to the coronary artery just above and below the blockage.

This artery replacement or transplant creates a bypass that allows blood to flow around the blockage, restoring natural blood flow through and out of the heart.

What to Expect After Cardiac Bypass Surger

Because cardiac bypass surgery is an invasive procedure, you will need to stay several days in the hospital, typically in an intensive care unit, during recovery. Your medical providers will carefully monitor your heart and respiratory systems in the hours and days following the procedure.

After being released from the ICU, you will likely be moved to a regular hospital room where you will continue the recovery process. The full recovery process will depend on whether you underwent a basic single bypass or had double bypass surgery (two blockages), triple bypass surgery (three blockages), quadruple bypass surgery (four blockages) or quintuple bypass surgery (five blockages). Your overall health and other factors also play a role.

After bypass surgery, your physician will recommend medications to help you recover and prevent complications. In addition, he or she will likely prescribe cardiac rehabilitation to help you ease back into activities of daily living.

When a heart bypass procedure is needed, we offer the specialty care and expertise you need. Call to schedule an appointment.

Sources: American Heart Association, Medline Plus, National Institutes of Health