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Understanding Heart Bypass Surgery


Heart bypass surgery – also called coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) – restores blood flow to your heart. During bypass surgery, your surgeon creates a new route for blood to flow around blocked coronary arteries. Your doctor at Dignity Health may recommend this procedure if you have been diagnosed with severe coronary artery disease (CAD). 

Heart bypass surgery may be performed when: 

  • Heart catheterization fails to fix a blockage
  • Multiple arteries around the heart are blocked
  • Immediate, aggressive intervention is needed following a massive heart attack

Find a Doctor at Dignity Health to discuss the possibility of heart bypass surgery in the Bay Area. Our cardiologists are committed to treating the whole person — not just the condition — and can make a plan to improve your heart health.

Types of Heart Bypass Surgeries at Dignity Health

Our cardiovascular specialists are skilled in several types of bypass surgery. Your specific condition and overall health will guide your doctor’s surgical recommendation. 

  • Traditional on-pump surgery is open heart surgery using a heart-lung machine to temporarily circulate your blood and keep your heart from beating.
  • Beating-heart (off-pump) surgery is open heart surgery where medication is used to slow your heartbeat while the surgeon operates. This type of surgery is recommended for patients at high risk for stroke.
  • Robot-assisted heart bypass surgery is a minimally invasive procedure where very precise repairs are completed with the aid of a computer-controlled surgical machine.  

What Should You Expect from Surgery?

Bypass surgery is a major procedure, requiring several days of postsurgical, in-hospital observation. Minimally invasive bypass surgery can shorten your hospital stay and lower your risk of complications. 

Risks associated with heart bypass surgery include: 

  • Postsurgical heart rhythm complications
  • Chest pain and low-grade fever for six months or more following the procedure
  • Memory problems
  • Kidney or liver complications 
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack

Recovering from Heart Bypass Surgery

Recovery starts in a specialized intensive care unit, where you will be monitored for a minimum of 24 hours. At this stage, you may be connected to a ventilator to help with breathing. 

Before your discharge — typically, after five to seven days in observation — you will receive instructions regarding postsurgical diet, exercise, and activity levels. Your strength and energy will gradually increase over the course of several weeks or months.

Dignity Health’s cardiac team utilizes advanced techniques to improve patient outcomes, minimize recovery times, and reduce hospital stays following heart bypass surgery in San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Redwood City.