Bypass surgery is the most common type of heart surgery done in adults. Doctors prescribe heart bypass surgery when one or more blood vessels that carry blood to the heart muscles are partially blocked.
Bypass surgery is a complex operation that requires a lot of preparation and recovery time. Occasionally, someone has to undergo emergency bypass surgery. But doctors schedules the surgery most of the time.
Bypass surgery is a relatively safe and successful treatment that decreases the chance of heart attacks and death. The treatment can also reduce symptoms of coronary heart disease, such as chest pain.
What is heart bypass surgery?
Heart bypass or coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG) is used to increase blood flow to your heart. A doctor uses blood vessels taken from another part of the body to bypass damaged arteries. Doctors perform about 200,000 such surgeries in the United States.
Doctors perform this surgery when the coronary arteries are blocked or damaged. These arteries supply oxygenated blood to your heart. If something blocks these arteries or restricts the blood supply, the heart will not function properly. This can lead to heart disease.
Potential Risks of bypass surgery
The risks associated with an open-heart operation rise with the number of bypasses needed. Because in that case, the surgery takes longer, and coronary artery disease is more serious.
Risks of heart bypass surgery may include:
- Issues with heart rhythm
- Anxiety and mood swing
- Postpericardiotomy syndrome, which involves low fever, tiredness, and chest pain;
- Memory loss or loss of mental clarity
- Heart attack or stroke
- Kidney failure
- Lung failure
Why Do I Need Bypass Surgery?
Bypass surgery is used to treat symptoms of coronary heart disease. This is when a waxy layer called plaque builds up inside the heart’s arteries. These plaques then block blood and oxygen.
Your doctor can recommend that you have heart bypass surgery if:
- You have extreme chest pain that the doctor thinks occurs because plaques blocked some of the arteries that supply oxygen to the heart.
- At least one of the coronary arteries has a disease that causes your left ventricle not to work properly. The left ventricle is the chamber that pumps most of your heart’s blood.
- There is a blockage of the left main coronary artery, which gives much of your left ventricle’s blood.
- You had other treatments, and either they didn’t work, or the artery became narrow again.
- A heart attack may result from coronary artery disease. It will cause a blood clot to form and block off the flow of blood. Bypass surgery will help boost the ticker’s health.
How is the need for bypass surgery determined?
A team of doctors, will identify whether you can perform open-heart surgery. Some medical conditions can complicate or remove surgery as a possibility.
Conditions that could cause complications include:
- Kidney disease
- Peripheral arterial disease (PAD)
Discuss these problems with your specialist before planning your surgery. You’ll probably want to talk about your family’s medical background. Also, describe if you are taking any prescribed and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. Planned surgical results are usually better than emergency surgery.
How is bypass surgery performed?
Before surgery, you will transform into a hospital gown and receive drugs, fluids, and anesthesia by an IV. When anesthesia starts to work, you will fall into a deep, painless sleep.
- The first step
Your surgeon continues by making an incision in the middle of your chest.
The rib cage will then be spread out to expose your heart. Your surgeon can also opt for minimally invasive surgery. These include minor cuts and special miniaturized equipment and robotic procedures.
- Connection to the cardiopulmonary bypass machine
You may be connected to a cardiopulmonary bypass system that circulates oxygenated blood through your body.
Doctors also perform some “off-pump” operations. This means connecting you to a cardiopulmonary bypass machine is unnecessary.
Your surgeon will then cut a healthy blood vessel from your leg to bypass a blocked or damaged part of your artery. Doctors place one end of the graft above the blockage and the other end below.
- The final steps
When your surgeon finishes his work, he checks the function of the bypass. Once the bypass is operating, doctors will stitch, bandage, and take you to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) with your monitor.
After the Surgery
You’ll be taken to the ICU to rest, where you’re likely to stay for the first few days. You’ll be out of surgery with a breathing tube in place. As you wake up and continue to breathe on your own, doctors will remove the tube.
When you’re in the ICU, the treatment team is expected to do the following:
- Apply bandages to the chest and areas where the vessels have been removed.
- Attach the catheter to the bladder to remove the urine
- Connect an ECG to monitor the rhythm of your heart
- Implant a temporary pacemaker, which they will remove before discharge.
- Screen vital signs, including blood pressure and oxygen
- And provide oxygen therapy with a mask or nasal prong.
When you’re finished with the ICU, doctors will transfer you to a normal or transitional care room to end your hospital stay. Here you could stay around a week in all.
How will I feel after surgery?
It’ll take about two months to heal from surgery. You may feel worse at first than you did before the surgery. This is normal and is typically due to surgery’s pain, not how well your heart is doing. The way you feel about surgery depends on your overall health, the surgery’s result, how well you take care of yourself after surgery, and how well you feel before surgery. Many patients feel better once they have recovered. When you have any worry about the symptoms, call the doctor.
When should I tell my doctor about the pain after surgery?
Tell the doctor if you experience any lasting pain or discomfort at your follow-up visit.
You should also contact the doctor if you have experience of:
- Fever over 100.4°F (38°C)
- pain in your chest
- Fast heart rate
- The redness or discharge of the incision
A part of your recovery and treatment after your surgery is to make healthy lifestyle improvements. Without this, the chances that you’ll need a second operation will increase.
Follow the doctor’s advice on how to prevent possible coronary artery blockages. This includes:
- Eating a balanced diet.
- Workout daily
- Treatment with high blood pressure, high blood sugar, or high cholesterol
- Do not smoke
Continue to take any medicine that your doctor may recommend.
The Bottom Line
When you or a loved one are getting heart bypass surgery, learning what to expect will help you ready for surgery and recovery. Have an open line of contact between your doctor and your surgeon. Don’t wait to express any thoughts or questions that come to mind. If you can, take a loved one with you to help you take notes and understand the process.