Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG)

What is a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG)?

Sometimes the blood vessels (arteries) in the heart are either blocked or are too narrow for blood to pass through. This condition can be confirmed by a heart test (coronary angiogram). If the condition cannot be remedied with medications, surgery called a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) is often necessary. CABG is the transplanting of blood vessels from one part of the body, such as the legs or inside the chest, to the heart. This operation usually requires a 4-7 day stay in the hospital. The first day or two following the operation are spent in the ICU.

You may hear someone talk about a "double" or "triple" bypass. The number referenced indicates the number of arteries in the heart on which bypass is performed during the surgery.

When is a CABG performed?

CABG is used when the condition of the affected arteries in the heart cannot be adequately remedied with medications.

How is a CABG performed?

The operation is usually performed through an incision made through the breastbone (sternum). Sections of blood vessels (veins) from other parts of the body, usually the legs, are removed. If veins from the legs are used for the bypass, incisions are made in one or both legs and sections of vein are removed. Because we have many extra veins in the legs, the removed veins are not missed.

Does a CABG hurt?

Not during the operation, because general anesthesia is used to prevent discomfort to the patient. However, the incision sites in the chest and limb(s) may be sore for some time following this operation.

Are there any complications associated with a CABG?

Most patients tolerate this operation very well. Serious complications do occur rarely. These include heart attack, stroke, respiratory failure and even death. Potential complications should be discussed with the doctor.