What is Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting

Coronary artery bypass grafting is done to keep the blood flow intact when an artery of the patient’s heart is blocked. When a section of the artery is blocked, the blood that is supposed to flow through that artery is redirected through a surgically implanted channel.

In Coronary Artery Bypass Graft, generally, a healthy blood vessel from the chest, arm or leg is taken and is connected bypassing the blocked area. CABG is not actually a cure to the situation as the surgery doesn’t open the blocked artery but this procedure actually works by reducing the symptoms like shortness of breath or chest pain. By minimising the symptoms, the overall heart condition is improved. Therefore, the overall risk of heart failure is reduced to null.

Why Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting is required

If your heart artery is blocked then heart bypass surgery is one of the many treatments including balloon angioplasty surgery. Coronary artery bypass grafting is generally done when all the other procedures like heart stents implantation along with dietary and lifestyle changes have failed to show satisfactory results.

Coronary artery bypass grafting is mandatory for the patient in these cases:

  • If the narrowing of multiple vessels is so severe that it leaves the person in the shortage of breath even during rest or with the lightest exercises
  • If more than one of the coronary arteries are blocked and the left ventricle and the main pumping chamber of the heart is not working
  • The main left coronary artery that supplies the most amount of blood to the left ventricle are severely blocked
  • Situations where balloon surgery is not possible or when the artery has again narrowed after a stent plantation

Even if CABG surgery is successful, the patient needs to follow strict dietary and lifestyle changes throughout his life.

Risks of Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting

Among all the open-heart surgeries, Coronary artery bypass grafting is one of the most complicated procedures. Therefore, though advanced medical science has increased the success rate in leaps and bounds, there are some certain risk factors associated with this surgery:

  • Heavy bleeding
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Complications with kidney
  • Infection in the chest cut area
  • Trouble thinking or memory loss
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack

Individual’s health condition and other parameters of the heart have large impacts on the speed of recovery for each patient. For specific health conditions like Diabetes, Kidney disease, Emphysema and Peripheral Artery Disease, the risk factor is quite a fold higher and also requires much advanced medical treatments.

How to prepare for Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting

Generally, bypass surgery requires a few days of strict restriction on diet and medications. As this surgery has a long-term recovery period, the patient must make arrangements for at least 4 to 6 weeks. This is the time required for resuming work, driving and other daily works.

When to get admitted to the hospital?

Unless the operation is being done under emergency situation, the patient is generally admitted 1 to 2 days prior to the operation.

What is the brief procedure of Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting

Coronary Bypass Surgery is done under general anaesthesia and requires 4 to 6 hours of time. The number of channels that needed to be bypassed depends on the number of blocked arteries and the overall condition of the heart.

To survive the general anaesthesia steadily, a breathing tube inserted from the mouth helps in respiration. The breathing tube remains connected with a ventilator immediately after the operation.

Throughout the operation, a heart-lung machine regulates the entire blood circulation of the body. This machine starts working when the patient’s heart is stopped with medication temporarily during the operation. Then, a healthy blood vessel is collected from another part of the body and generally placed at the bottom of the original cardiac artery to bypass the route.

Once the procedure is over, the surgeon will normalize the patient’s heartbeat and will disconnect the heart-lung machine. The incision will be stitched with surgical wire.

Reactions and complications after the procedure

After the surgery, the patient needs to spend 2-5 days in the intensive care unit. The breathing process with the breathing tube will continue till the candidate is capable of breathing of his or her own.

A set of exercises is especially designed for the patient considering his or her cardio-thoracic condition. Once the patient is released from the hospital, the recovery-symptoms should start increasing gradually.

If any of these symptoms comes back after 3 weeks of operation, immediately contact with your doctor:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Fever
  • Angina
  • Bleeding from the chest wound

What are the post-operative changes required to prevent further heart blockage:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Keeping bad cholesterol at bay
  • More active lifestyle
  • Daily consumption of more leafy vegetables, fruits and whole grains to the diet
  • Least consumption of saturated fat

The major risk factors of bypass operation are associated with emergency surgery without any precaution, smoking history and 70+ age.

Content Reviewed By: Dr. Amit Chaudhary