Heart Bypass Surgery

Not all blood vessel blockages can undergo Angioplasty or Stenting.

Some blockages are too severe and/or hardened to be safely open using balloons or stents.

Sometimes there are so many blockages that treating them with Angioplasty will result in many stents being used.

In these cases, Heart Bypass Surgery is an option. Heart Bypass uses the patient’s own blood vessels from other parts of the body to form a new pathway for blood to flow to the heart muscle. These “transplanted” blood vessels are known as “Grafts”, and hence the surgery is also known as “Coronary Artery Bypass Graft” Surgery, or “CABG”. The blood vessels commonly used are the Internal Mammary Artery and the Saphenous Vein.

Patients need to be in hospital between 7 to 14 days, and it takes 2 to 3 months to recover enough to return to normal life.

What is heart bypass surgery?

  • Coronary bypass surgery is a procedure that helps redirect blood from around a blocked or partially blocked artery in your heart. It involves taking a healthy blood vessel from your leg, arm or chest and connecting it to the blocked arteries in your heart. This provides a new pathway for the blood to flow to the heart muscles easily.
  • Coronary bypass surgery is not a total cure to the heart diseases that cause blockages, like atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease. However, it can help ease its symptoms, which include chest pain and shortness of breath. In some patients, this procedure has been seen to improve the overall heart functions and reduce the risk of dying of heart disease.

Why might I need heart bypass surgery?

There are various reasons that can cause your doctor to recommend Heart Bypass surgery. They may include:

    • Severe chest pains, caused by the narrowing of arteries, lead to muscles having a shortage of blood during light exercise or even at rest.
    • The existence of more than one diseased coronary artery, as well as an issue in the functioning of the left ventricle in the heart.
    • Blockage in the left main coronary artery is responsible for supplying most of the blood to the left ventricle.
    • An artery blockage that can’t be treated with an angioplasty treatment (a procedure involving a temporary insertion and inflation of a tiny balloon to help widen the blocked region of the artery).

Coronary Bypass surgery can also be done in emergency situations, such as a heart attack, wherein the patient is unresponsive to other treatments.

What are the risks of coronary bypass surgery?

Since the procedure is open-heart surgery, you may experience some complications or issues during or after the surgery. These may include:

    • Bleeding
    • Irregular heartbeats
    • Infections of the chest wound
    • Memory loss or trouble thinking clearly, although this often improves within 6 to 12 weeks
    • Kidney problems
    • Stroke
    • Heart attack, if a blood clot breaks loose soon after surgery

The chances of you probably experiencing any of these complications is very low, but is dependent on existing conditions like diabetes and emphysema, or if the surgery is done in an emergency situation.

How do I get ready for coronary artery bypass surgery?

Once the procedure is determined, your doctor will instruct you on the dos and don’ts of the pre-surgery preparation. Do note that you may require assistance post-surgery, as it will take about 4-6 weeks for you to recover well enough to resume work, drive or perform daily chores.

What are the necessary precautions required after Heart Bypass Surgery?

  • Post-surgery, you will find yourself in intensive care for a day or two. A breathing tube may be inserted into your throat to assist with breathing during the early recovery or until you are able to breathe on your own.
  • While at the hospital, you will also be introduced to cardiac rehabilitation regimes that will help you recover faster. You will need to follow monitored programs in an outpatient setting for a while until you are well enough to follow through at home as well. Complete recovery is expected to take about 6-12 weeks and you are advised to follow the doctor’s instructions and monitor programs during the period. Once you receive the green light from your doctor, only then can you proceed to ease back into your normal routine.
  • The effects of Bypass surgery can last long, but it is imperative to follow a healthy lifestyle to further extend its longevity. You must maintain a healthy weight through well-balanced diets and regular exercise, and also refrain from habits like smoking or over-stressing, to ensure maximum success of your Coronary Bypass surgery.

During the recovery process, it is not uncommon for patients to encounter issues or difficulties. However, if you continue to experience the following symptoms after reaching home, do notify your doctor immediately:

  • Fever
  • Rapid heart rates
  • New or Worsening pain around the surgery wound
  • Reddening, Bleeding or other discharges from the wound region

**The above information is for general knowledge only and does not constitute medical advice. Please consult a doctor if you have any questions or symptoms.