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If conservative methods to treat your angina are not successful your consultant may recommend coronary artery bypass graft.

What is coronary artery bypass graft surgery?

You have two carotid arteries. They are the main arteries that supply blood and oxygen to your head and neck. Sometimes plague (fatty deposits) begins to build up on the walls of your arteries causing them to narrow and restrict the flow of blood. This is called coronary heart disease and the narrowing of the arteries can cause chest pain (angina) and/or breathlessness. 

Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery is when healthy blood vessels from elsewhere in your body are transferred and grafted to your heart. This allows blood to be diverted around blocked or narrowed arteries to improve the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your heart.

What are the benefits of coronary artery bypass graft surgery?

Successful surgery will reduce your symptoms from coronary heart disease such as angina and shortness of breath, as well as improve your quality of life. This type of surgery also reduces the risk of future heart attacks. For patients with severe coronary artery disease, CABG may improve your life expectancy.

Is coronary artery bypass graft surgery right for me?

Your consultant will only recommend coronary artery bypass graft surgery if conservative methods to treat your angina have not been successful, or due to the location of the narrowed artery other treatments are not appropriate.

What happens during coronary artery bypass graft surgery?

CABG is performed under general anaesthetic and can take 3-6 hours depending on how many grafts your surgeon needs to perform. They will first locate blood vessels in other areas of your body that will be used for grafting. There are several choices but all options are taken from vessels that are not prone to narrowing.

Your surgeon will make an incision (cut) down your breastbone to access your heart. While they are working your blood will be rerouted through a heart-lung bypass machine. This allows your heart to be still while the grafts are attached. Using the grafting vessels they will bypass (divert) the blood supply around the blockage. Once all the grafts are in place they will restart your heart with electric shocks. Your breastbone will be closed using wires and the surgical wounds closed with stitches or staples.

After your operation, you will be transferred to the cardiac intensive-care unit or high-dependency unit, usually for 24 hours, and then to a ward. Everyone recovers differently but you will probably be very groggy in the first days after your CABG. We will give you pain relief medication but be sure and tell us if you are in any pain.

Our healthcare team will help you begin to get up and begin to move around.

You should be able to go home after seven to ten days.

Going home after CABG

Please arrange for someone to drive you home. You will not be allowed to drive until released to do so.

Continue to take any pain relief medication. You may feel tired for several weeks following your surgery. Rest following any activity. Avoid any heavy lifting, pushing or pulling for at least 6 weeks after your surgery.

Keep your chest wound clean and dry. If you have dissolvable stitches they should disappear after about 6 weeks. Your scar may be red at first but over time it will fade.

Follow any dietary advice. CABG does not cure heart disease so you may need to make lifestyle changes to prevent the return of symptoms. You may also be referred to a cardiac rehabilitation programme for tips on getting active and staying active.

Full recovery can take up to 12 weeks. Be sure and discuss any return to work with your surgeon.

Most people make a good recovery from CABG. As with any surgical procedure, there could be complications such as:

Specific complications from CABG may include:

  • Scarring
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Impaired kidney function
  • Memory problems (usually temporary)
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke

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