Coronary Bypass Surgery

Coronary bypass surgery is a common procedure used to divert blood around blocked arteries in the heart. Coronary bypass surgery remains one of the gold standard surgical treatments for coronary artery disease.

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Just like all the other organs in your body, your heart needs blood and oxygen to do its job. Coronary arteries snake across the surface of your heart, delivering a constant supply of much-needed blood and oxygen to the heart muscle. When one or more of these arteries becomes narrowed or blocked, blood and oxygen are reduced and heart muscle is damaged.Coronary bypass surgery uses a healthy blood vessel harvested from your leg, arm, chest or abdomen and connects it to the other arteries in your heart so that blood is bypassed around the diseased or blocked area.

If lifestyle changes and medication haven't relieved your symptoms or if your narrowed coronary arteries put you at imminent risk of a heart attack, you and your doctor will need to consider whether coronary bypass surgery or another artery-opening procedure such as angioplasty is right for you.

Bypass surgery is an option if:

  • You have debilitating chest pain caused by narrowing of several of the arteries that supply your heart muscle, leaving the muscle short of blood during light exercise or at rest. Sometimes angioplasty and stent placement will bring relief in this situation, but for some, bypass is the best option.
  • You have more than one diseased coronary artery and the heart's main pump — the left ventricle — is functioning poorly.
  • Your left main coronary artery is severely narrowed or blocked. This artery feeds blood to the left ventricle.
  • You have an artery blockage for which angioplasty isn't appropriate, you've had a previous angioplasty or stent placement hasn't been successful, or you've had angioplasty but the artery has narrowed again (restenosis).

Coronary bypass surgery doesn't cure the underlying disease process called atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease. Even if you have bypass surgery, lifestyle changes are still necessary and an integral part of treatment after surgery. Lifestyle changes — especially smoking cessation — are crucial to reduce the chance of future blockages and heart attacks, even after successful bypass surgery. In addition, you will likely need to make other lifestyle changes, such as reducing certain types of fat in your diet, increasing physical activity, and controlling high blood pressure, diabetes and other risk factors for heart disease. Medications are routine after heart surgery to lower your blood cholesterol, reduce the risk of developing a blood clot and help your heart function as well as possible.

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