What is Bypass Surgery?
Coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG, pronounced “cabbage”) is the most commonly performed type of heart surgery. In the year 2003 there were 467,000 bypass surgeries performed in the United States, and 26% of these were performed on women.1
During bypass surgery, a healthy artery or vein is removed from another part of your body and used to re-route blood flow around a blocked or narrowed coronary artery. The healthy vein or artery is called a bypass graft. One end is sewn to the aorta (the largest artery that comes out of your heart) and the other end is attached to the coronary artery just below the blockage. A vein in the leg (the saphenous vein) or an artery in the chest (the internal mammary artery) is usually used to create the bypass graft. More rarely, an artery from the arm or the stomach may be used. Removing these healthy vessels is harmless since there are many other arteries and veins that can take over for them.
Heart Before Bypass
Heart After Bypass
Who should have bypass surgery?
Most patients with coronary artery disease do not require surgery. Bypass surgery is usually reserved for women with severe blockages in two or more arteries. Women with narrowings in only one coronary artery are usually treated with balloon angioplasty or stents. If you have other conditions, such as diabetes, bypass surgery may be the best treatment option. You may require one, two, three, or more bypass grafts depending on how many arteries are blocked.
Bypass surgery may be recommended if you have blockages in several arteries of the heart, a severe narrowing in the largest coronary artery (on the left side of the heart), severe chest pain, or blockages that have not responded to other treatments (such as medication or balloon angioplasty). Your doctor will recommend bypass surgery based on your symptoms and the results of diagnostic tests including cardiac catheterization.