Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery

What Is Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG) Surgery?

If you have plaque build-up or blocked arteries, the blood flow and supply of oxygen to your heart will decrease. The buildup in your arteries weakens your heart muscle.

CABG is open-heart surgery that restores proper blood flow to your heart.

During CABG, your surgeon:

  • Takes a healthy blood vessel from a different part of your body and graft it into your artery.
  • Uses the new blood vessel to bypass the blockage, restoring proper blood flow and oxygen levels to your heart.

CABG is also known as coronary artery bypass surgery or heart bypass surgery. It's an effective treatment method for people with severe blockages in their arteries.

Contact Us About Your Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery

To request an appointment, contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute:

The most common condition we treat with CABG is coronary artery (heart) disease. For people with coronary artery disease, their arteries narrow and harden due to plaque buildup in their blood vessels.

Some symptoms of coronary heart disease include:

  • Chest pain
  • Labored breathing
  • Heart palpitations

Left untreated, coronary artery disease may cause a heart attack.

CABG also helps people who don't have a coronary artery disease diagnosis but who form blockage in their arteries.

Before Your Heart Bypass Surgery

Your doctor will first order tests to check your heart and see if bypass surgery is right for you.

Tests may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Echocardiogram
  • Chest x-ray

The results will help your doctor learn how severe your heart disease and how much blockage you have.

If your doctor clears you for heart bypass surgery, he or she will give you details on how to best prepare.

During Your Heart Bypass

Heart bypass surgery can last between two and six hours, based on how severe your disease. You will receive general anesthesia before surgery, so you won't be awake or feel any pain.

To create the bypass, your surgeon will:

  • Use a healthy blood vessel from another part of your body or make a synthetic graft.
  • Make a cut in the blocked artery.
  • Sew the new blood vessel on either side of the blockage, allowing blood to flow through the new blood vessel.

Once your surgeon bypasses the blocked artery, he or she will close your incision and you can start to heal.

After Your Heart Bypass Surgery

After CABG, your doctor will provide instructions for post-op care.

It can take a few months to fully recover, so you should avoid any strenuous activity.

You might also need to make lifestyle changes and take medicine to prevent future blocks in your arteries.

As with any open-heart surgery, CABG poses risks and complications like:

  • Blood clots
  • Internal bleeding during or after surgery
  • Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm)
  • Infection

Some people may have a slight fever or get pneumonia after surgery.

Your age, other health problems, and the amount of blockage in your arteries also increase the likelihood of post-op complications.

If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor before having coronary artery bypass surgery.

To learn more about heart bypass or find a doctor, contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute.