Heart Bypass Surgery
What is Heart Bypass Surgery?
Heart bypass surgery, or coronary artery bypass graft, is a surgical procedure that treats coronary heart disease. As the name suggests, the coronary artery bypass surgery involves inserting a tube that allows the blood to bypass a clotted artery to reach the heart muscle. This is important since, if untreated, blood flow to the heart can become severely reduced, as arteries become narrower with fatty deposits. Fatty deposits in their arteries (a process called atherosclerosis) causes coronary heart disease. This is a very common condition as is more likely in those over the age of 65, are overweight, smokers or if you have a high-fat diet. Those with coronary heart disease are at an increased risk of developing shortness of breath, angina, which is a painful sensation of the chest when exercising, or a heart attack, which can be fatal. This is why heart bypass surgery is recommended early to reduce chances of developing these problems.
How is a Heart Bypass Surgery performed?
This procedure is conducted under general anaesthetic, which means you will be unconscious. The side effects of general anaesthesia include nausea, confusion and pain. Heart bypass surgery involves removing a vessel from elsewhere in the body, usually the leg, arm or chest, and connecting it above and below the blockage in your coronary artery (the artery that supplies the heart muscle). This newly inserted vessel is called a graft, and will act as a diversion route for blood to reach the heart. The surgery sometimes involves multiple grafts being used, however this depends on how severe the coronary artery disease is.
How to prepare for Heart Bypass Surgery?
Before the operation you will need to attend a pre-operative clinic where you will meet a member of the team who will be involved in the surgery. At the clinic you will have a physical examination and may have some routine tests performed, such as a chest X-ray or blood tests, to check you are fit for surgery. The physician will also ask some questions about your health, the medication you take at the moment and any allergies you may have, so it is important you are familiar with these before the appointment. This will also be an opportunity to find out more about the procedure and ask any questions.
This procedure will involve you spending at least 7 days in hospital after the procedure, so you may want to ensure you take with you a night gown, some reading or medication you normally take.
What happens after Heart Bypass Surgery?
Following the procedure, you should notice an immediate improvement in symptoms such as chest pain or breathlessness. This surgery however is not a cure, and the new grafts are also susceptible to the same fatty deposits as the original arteries, so it is important you take on some lifestyle changes. This will include regular exercise and a healthy diet. If your graft does end up becoming narrowed itself the surgery may need to be repeated.