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Coronary artery bypass is surgery to treat coronary artery disease. It helps blood make a detour, or bypass, around one or more narrowed or blocked coronary arteries. These arteries are the blood vessels that bring blood to the heart muscle. This is also called coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) or bypass surgery.
Your doctor will make the bypass with a healthy piece of blood vessel from another part of your body. Then the doctor will attach, or graft, the healthy blood vessel to the narrowed or blocked artery. The new blood vessel bypasses the diseased artery to increase blood flow to the heart muscle.
The doctor typically makes a cut in the skin over your breastbone (sternum). This cut is called an incision. Then the doctor will cut through your sternum to reach your heart and coronary arteries. The doctor may connect you to a heart-lung bypass machine. It adds oxygen to the blood and moves the blood through the body. The machine will allow the doctor to stop your heartbeat while working on your arteries. The doctor will use blood vessels from your chest, arm, or leg to bypass the narrowed or blocked parts of your arteries. When the blood vessels are in place, the doctor will restart your heart. In some cases, the doctor may be able to do the surgery without using a heart-lung machine. This is called "off-pump" surgery.
The doctor may use wire to put your sternum back together. Stitches or staples will be used to close the incisions in the skin over your sternum and where your healthy blood vessel was taken. The wire will stay in your chest. The incisions will leave scars. They may fade with time.
You will stay in the hospital for a few days after surgery. You will probably be able to do many of your usual activities after 4 to 6 weeks. But for at least 6 weeks you will avoid lifting heavy objects and doing things that strain your chest or upper arm muscles. At first you may notice that you get tired quickly. You may need to rest often. It may take 1 to 2 months before your energy is back to normal.
Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.
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Current as of: July 28, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & David C. Stuesse MD - Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery
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