A coronary bypass surgery, or Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG) is similar to a balloon angioplasty, or Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI), which is used to treat narrowing of the coronary arteries of the heart or to treat blood clots, thus normalising the blood supply to the heart.
The CABG is needed when it is not technically possible to perform a PCI or if the constriction of the arteries is severe. The purpose of the CABG is to lead the blood away from the constricted arteries.
During the surgery
During CABG, a healthy artery or vein from the body is connected, or grafted, to the blocked coronary artery. The grafted vein can be an artery supplying the chest muscles with blood, or it can be an artery from the arm or leg. The patient will be under general anaesthesia during the surgery and initially, the surgeon will make an incision down the centre of the chest. Usually, a heart-lung bypass machine will keep oxygen-rich blood moving throughout the body during the surgery, but sometimes the surgeon will omit the use of this machine and let the heart beat in the usual manner. The surgery itself lasts less than an hour, but usually bleeding occurs. Therefore, the surgery will often end up lasting up to four hours, or until the bleeding is stopped.
After the surgery
After the surgery, the patient usually stays in hospital for up to a week, unless complications arise. It is important to be attentive directly after the surgery where the patient will often experience fatigue and chest pain due to the incision, but these symptoms will often disappear after about a month.
In addition, it is very important to avoid overstretching the chest bone, which may occur when lifting heavy items. It is important to avoid moving the arms too much as well, however, mild exercise working up a sweat after coming home from the hospital is generally recommended. This way, the general condition and the working capacity of the heart is improved. However, it is important to start out gently, as the chest bone and the surgical scar should not be strained.
The full effect of the surgery will be noticeable after roughly three months. If physical rehabilitation is needed after CABG, a general practitioner can make a referral.