Heart bypass surgery creates a new route, called a bypass, for blood and oxygen to go around a blockage to reach your heart.
Before your surgery, you will get general anesthesia. You will be asleep (unconscious) and pain-free during surgery.
Once you are unconscious, the heart surgeon will make an 8 to 10-inch (20.5 to 25.5 cm) surgical cut in the middle of your chest. Your breastbone will be separated to create an opening. This allows your surgeon to see your heart and aorta, the main blood vessel leading from the heart to the rest of your body.
Most people who have coronary bypass surgery are connected to a heart-lung bypass machine, or bypass pump.
Another type of bypass surgery does not use the heart-lung bypass machine. The procedure is done while your heart is still beating. This is called off-pump coronary artery bypass, or OPCAB.
To create the bypass graft:
After the graft has been created, your breastbone will be closed with wires. These wires stay inside you. The surgical cut will be closed with stitches.
This surgery can take 4 to 6 hours. After the surgery, you will be taken to the intensive care unit.
You may need this procedure if you have a blockage in one or more of your coronary arteries. Coronary arteries are the vessels that supply your heart with oxygen and nutrients that are carried in your blood.
When one or more of the coronary arteries becomes partly or totally blocked, your heart does not get enough blood. This is called ischemic heart disease, or coronary artery disease (CAD). It can cause chest pain (angina).
Coronary artery bypass surgery can be used to improve blood flow to your heart. Your doctor may have first tried to treat you with medicines. You may have also tried exercise and diet changes, or angioplasty with stenting.
CAD is different from person to person. The way it is diagnosed and treated will also vary. Heart bypass surgery is just one type of treatment.
Other procedures that may be used:
Risks for any surgery include:
Possible risks from having coronary bypass surgery include:
Always tell your health care provider what drugs you are taking, even drugs or herbs you bought without a prescription.
During the days before your surgery:
The day before your surgery:
On the day of the surgery:
You will be told when to arrive at the hospital.
After the operation, you will spend 3 to 7 days in the hospital. You will spend the first night in an intensive care unit (ICU). You will probably be moved to a regular or transitional care room within 24 to 48 hours after the procedure.
Two to three tubes will be in your chest to drain fluid from around your heart. They are most often removed 1 to 3 days after surgery.
You may have a catheter (flexible tube) in your bladder to drain urine. You may also have intravenous (IV) lines for fluids. You will be attached to machines that monitor your pulse, temperature, and breathing. Nurses will constantly watch your monitors.
You may have several small wires that are connected to a pacemaker, which are pulled out prior to your discharge.
You will be encouraged to restart some activities and you may begin a cardiac rehab program within a few days.
It takes 4 to 6 weeks to start feeling better after surgery. Your providers will tell you how to take care of yourself at home after the surgery.
Recovery from surgery takes time. You may not see the full benefits of your surgery for 3 to 6 months. In most people who have heart bypass surgery, the grafts stay open and work well for many years.
This surgery does not prevent the coronary artery blockage from coming back. You can do many things to slow this process down, including:
Reviewed By: Mary C. Mancini, MD, PhD, Department of Surgery, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center-Shreveport, Shreveport, LA. Internal review and update on 07/12/2019 by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.