Open heart surgery


Overview of open heart surgery

Open heart bypass surgery is a treatment for coronary artery disease (CAD), also known as heart disease. CAD is narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries, which are essential for your heart to function properly.

Heart bypass surgery is known medically as coronary artery bypass graft (or CABG) surgery. CABG surgery creates a new route for blood to flow around the blocked part of the coronary artery to the heart muscle.

CABG is an incredibly common procedure, with more than 200,000 performed in the United States each year. If you or a loved one may be a candidate for CABG, talk with your doctor to understand how this treatment could help reduce symptoms and treat your heart disease.

Our team of expert cardiac surgeons at Dignity Health performs open heart bypass surgery. If you would like to learn more, Find a Doctor near you today.

Why it’s necessary

You may need CABG surgery to treat coronary artery disease symptoms, such as:

  • Chest pain
  • Palpitations or abnormal heart rhythms
  • Fatigue
  • Foot or hand swelling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Indigestion

These symptoms typically only appear late in the progression of heart disease when there is already enough of a blockage to cause symptoms. Treatments such as CABG can reduce coronary artery blockages and prevent a heart attack. If you think you are at risk, it is essential to speak with your doctor and get tested as soon as possible.

Several diagnoses will make you a candidate for coronary bypass surgery. Doctors will first need to learn what area of your heart is affected. They may perform any of the following tests:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) to record electrical signals in the heart
  • Echocardiogram to use sound waves to produce an image of your heart
  • Stress test to check symptoms during exercise
  • Cardiac catheterization/angiogram to view blood flow through your heart with an injected dye

If it is determined that there are multiple blockages, that the left ventricle (your heart’s main pumping chamber) isn’t working well, that your left coronary artery is blocked or extremely narrowed, or it seems that a less invasive procedure is not going to work, your doctor may consider coronary artery bypass surgery. You would also be a candidate if you have previously had a stent placement (a wire mesh tube to hold the artery open), but the artery has narrowed again. This recurrence is called restenosis.

Coronary bypass surgery can also be performed in emergencies when a heart attack is suspected to have occurred.

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.