Cardiac bypass surgery

People who have coronary artery disease have narrowing of the arteries that pump the blood to all of the organs and tissues of the body. If these blood vessels are narrowed, the heart has a very hard time pumping blood to the extremities. This can cause heart damage. Some people can improve with medications or lifestyle changes such as stopping smoking, however if the blockages are significant, bypass surgery is indicated.

Cardiac bypass surgery is indicated if a person has severe chest pain which is caused by narrowing of more than one coronary artery which supply the heart muscle which occur upon exertion. People who have narrowing of only one artery may be eligible for a less invasive procedure called angioplasty however narrowing of more than one artery usually makes this procedure necessary. People who have a severely narrowed left coronary artery and the left ventricle of the heart is damaged or diseased are candidates for bypass surgery. People who have had previous angioplasty or stents and have not responded well to the procedure or their arteries have narrowed further may need bypass surgery.

Cardiac bypass surgery includes removing blockages. The surgeon removes damaged or diseased sections of arteries that prevent adequate blood flowing into the heart due to the coronary arteries either being narrowed or blocked. In this surgery, the surgeon takes a healthy artery from either an arm or a leg and removes a section of it. They then remove the damaged section of the coronary artery that is attached to the heart muscle. The surgeon replaces the damaged artery with the new healthy artery. The new healthy artery is sewn or grafted into the coronary artery to allow proper blood flow into the heart.

This type of surgery takes between three to six hours to complete and is preformed under general anesthesia. Surgeons usually repair between two to four coronary arteries at a time when doing cardiac bypass surgery. A large incision is made in the chest and the rib cage is cut and spread open to expose the heart muscle and blood vessels. Once the heart is exposed, the blood and bodies circulation is diverted to a heart/lung machine that takes over that task temporarily so that the heart can be repaired safely. The surgeon then takes the healthy artery from an arm or leg and places it above and below the blocked areas of the coronary artery. This bypasses the blockage or narrowed areas of the diseased coronary artery.

The main complications or risks that can occur during cardiac bypass surgery are bleeding, infection of the wound or the area that the artery was removed from the arm or leg, stroke, problems with memory or ability to concentrate, stroke and kidney failure. These risks are usually low but should be discussed with a surgeon as they do vary depending on the general health of the individual involved.

After cardiac bypass surgery, most people spend 24 to 48 hours in intensive care units for close monitoring. They have a breathing tube for approximately 24 hours. Average hospital stay for this surgery is from four days up to one week. After surgery, most people realize relief from their symptoms which last for many years. However there are lifestyle changes which may be necessary in order to promote a healthy lifestyle once surgery has taken place. Some of the changes may include dietary changes such as following a DASH diet, taking medications, stopping smoking, reducing cholesterol levels, exercising more and maintaining a healthy weight, controlling blood pressure levels, and managing blood sugar levels if diabetic.

Last updated on Aug 14th, 2009 and filed under Cardiovascular Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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