What is heart bypass surgery?
Heart bypass surgery, or coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery, is used to improve blood flow to your heart. A surgeon uses blood vessels taken from another area of your body to bypass the damaged arteries.
This surgery is done when coronary arteries become blocked or damaged. These arteries supply your heart with oxygenated blood. If these arteries are blocked or blood flow is restricted, the heart doesn’t work properly. This can lead to heart failure.
What are the different types of heart bypass surgery?
Your doctor will recommend a certain type of bypass surgery depending on how many of your arteries are blocked.
• Single bypass. Only one artery is blocked.
• Double bypass. Two arteries are blocked.
• Triple bypass. Three arteries are blocked.
• Quadruple bypass. Four arteries are blocked.
Your risk of having a heart attack, heart failure, or another cardiac issue depends on the number of arteries blocked. Blockage in more arteries also means that the surgery may take longer or become more complex.Why might a person need heart bypass surgery?
When a material in your blood called plaque builds up on your arterial walls, less blood flows to the heart muscle. This type of coronary artery disease (CAD) is known as atherosclerosis.
The heart is more likely to become exhausted and fail if it’s not receiving enough blood. Atherosclerosis can affect any arteries in the body.
Your doctor may recommend heart bypass surgery if your coronary arteries become so narrowed or blocked that you run a high risk of a heart attack.
Your doctor will also recommend bypass surgery when the blockage is too severe to manage with medication or other treatments.What are the risks of heart bypass surgery?
As with any open-heart surgery, heart bypass surgery carries risks. Recent technological advancements have improved the procedure, increasing the chances of a successful surgery.
There’s still a risk for some complications after surgery. These complications could include:
• blood clots
• chest pain
• kidney failure
• heart attack or strokeWhat are the alternatives to heart bypass surgery?
In the past decade, more alternatives to heart bypass surgery have become available. These include:Balloon angioplasty
Balloon angioplasty is the alternative that’s most likely to be recommended by doctors. During this treatment, a tube is threaded through your blocked artery. Afterward, a small balloon is inflated to widen the artery.
The doctor then removes the tube and the balloon. A small metal scaffold, also known as a stent, will be left in place. A stent keeps the artery from contracting back to its original size.
Balloon angioplasty may not be as effective as heart bypass surgery, but it’s less risky.Enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP)
Enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP) is an outpatient procedure. It can be performed as an alternativeTrusted Source to heart bypass surgery, according to multiple studiesTrusted Source. In 2002, it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in people with congestive heart failure (CHF).
EECP involves compressing blood vessels in the lower limbs. This increases blood flow to the heart. The extra blood is delivered to the heart with every heartbeat.
Over time, some blood vessels may develop extra “branches” that will deliver blood to the heart, becoming a sort of “natural bypass.”
EECP is administered daily for a period of one to two hours over the course of seven weeks.Medications
There are some medications you can consider before resorting to methods such as heart bypass surgery. Beta-blockers can relieve stable angina. You can use cholesterol-reducing drugs to slow plaque buildup in your arteries.
Your doctor may also recommend a daily dose of low-dose aspirin (baby aspirin) to help prevent heart attacks. Aspirin therapy is very effective in people with a prior history of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (such as heart attack or stroke).
Those without a prior history should only use aspirin as a preventive drug if they:
• are at high risk of heart attack and other atherosclerotic cardiovascular diseases
• also have a low risk for bleedingDiet and lifestyle changes
The best preventive measure is a “heart-healthy” lifestyle, as prescribed by the American Heart Association (AHA). Eating a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in saturated and trans fats helps your heart stay healthy.How do You prepare for heart bypass surgery?
If your doctor recommends heart bypass surgery, they’ll give you complete instructions on how to prepare.
If the surgery is scheduled in advance and isn’t an emergency procedure, you’ll most likely have several preoperative appointments where you’ll be asked about your health and family medical history.
You’ll also undergo several tests to help your doctor get an accurate picture of your health. These may include:
• blood tests
• chest X-ray
• electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)