If your heart failure is the result of an artery around the heart becoming blocked, your doctor may recommend coronary bypass surgery, also known as a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG).
In this procedure, a healthy piece of vein or artery is first removed from your leg, arm or chest. The surgeon then attaches the healthy vessel above and below the blockage in the coronary artery. This allows the blood to navigate around—or bypass—the blocked portion of the coronary artery and flow through the healthy vessel on its way to the heart.
View the Emmi video education program on CABG (you will need to enter some basic information to access the program)
Preparing for Coronary Bypass Surgery
If your doctor is recommending coronary bypass surgery, you have probably already had an angiogram (also known as a cardiac catheterization), which allows your doctor to see the blockages in your heart and plan your procedure.
Talk to your doctor to find out exactly what will happen during the surgery. To complete the operation, your surgeon may need to temporarily stop your heart. If so, you will be placed on a heart-lung machine, which keeps oxygen-rich blood flowing to your body. This is called on-pump surgery. Your surgeon may choose not to use the heart-lung machine (off-pump surgery). Be sure to ask your surgeon if he or she is planning to do an on-pump or off-pump surgery and why.
Make sure your doctor knows about all medications you are taking, including aspirin, vitamin supplements and any over-the counter medicines.
Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your surgery. If your doctor tells you to take any of your medications on the day of your surgery, take them with just a sip of water.
What Happens in Surgery
- Your surgical team will place you under general anesthesia.
- The surgeon will open your chest so that he or she can get access to your heart.
- The bypass graft (a healthy portion of a vein or artery) will be removed from your leg, arm or chest.
- If your surgeon is performing an on-pump surgery, you will be placed on a heart-lung machine at this time.
- One end of the graft will be sewn to your aorta (the main artery leading out from your heart).
- The other end of the graft will be sewn to a point past the blockage.
- Once the graft is attached at both ends, your surgeon will remove you from the heart-lunb machine (if it was used) and your heart will start to pump on its own again.
- Small tubes will be placed in your chest to drain any excess fluid. You may also have pacing wires attached to help your heart beat normally as you begin to recover.
- The surgeon will close the opening in your chest.
After Your Surgery
When you wake up after surgery, you may feel a little groggy or nauseated. If you are in any serious discomfort, let your nurse know. You will be connected to monitors to ensure that your heart and lungs are functioning correctly.
Once you go home, you will probably feel tired for a while. It is important to closely follow your surgeon's instructions, which will probably include not lifting any heavy objects (heavier than a gallon of milk) and not driving until your doctor says it is okay.
For more information, visit the After You Are Discharged section of this site.
Make sure to contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Fever of 101° or higher
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Severe pain in or around your wounds
- Any feeling that something is wrong
Learn more about treatments for heart failure:
- Lifestyle Changes
- Heart Valve Repair or Replacement
- Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)
- Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy (CRT)
For more information about heart failure treatment at the Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center or to make an appointment, please call us at 713-DEBAKEY (713-332-2539) or complete our online contact us form.