Coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG surgery) is one of the most common heart surgeries MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute cardiac surgeons perform. Also known as bypass surgery, CABG (pronounced like the vegetable cabbage) is used to treat coronary artery disease, a condition where blood does not flow easily through the arteries of the heart and/or blood vessels narrow, reducing the flow of blood to the heart.
CABG surgery creates alternate routes for blood to flow to your heart, bypassing the natural arteries. During the surgery, instead of removing the blockages in your coronary arteries, your physician will remove or redirect a blood vessel (also called a graft) from one area of your body and place it around the area that’s narrowing in order to restore blood flow to the heart.
The blood vessel can come from your arms, legs or chest. Your surgeon will determine which blood vessel should be used based on where the blockage is located, how much blockage you have and the size of your coronary arteries.
Some patients require the use of a heart-lung bypass machine during CABG surgery. This machine allows blood to circulate throughout your body after your heart is stopped during the surgery. Other patients are able to have “off-pump” or beating-heart surgeries. During this type of surgery, your surgeon uses special tools to hold portions or your heart and bypass the blocked artery. The rest of your heart continues to circulate blood throughout your body.
At MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute, our heart surgeons perform half of CABG surgeries as beating-heart surgeries. Your physician will determine which form of CABG surgery is right for you.
Following CABG surgery, you will need to remain in the hospital for several days and stay connected to monitors that display your electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) readings, blood pressure, oxygen level, breathing rate, and other pressure readings. When you are ready to return home, your physician will supply you with specific instructions regarding at-home care and any activity restrictions.