Monday, January 2, 2012

Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting

         Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) is a type of surgery called revascularization, used to improve blood flow to the heart in people with severe coronary artery disease (CAD).
CAD occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle (the coronary arteries) become blocked due to the buildup of a material called plaque on the inside of the blood vessels. If the blockage is severe, chest pain (also called angina), shortness of breath, and, in some cases, heart attack can occur.

CABG is one treatment for CAD. During CABG, a healthy artery or vein from another part of the body is connected, or grafted, to the blocked coronary artery. The grafted artery or vein bypasses (that is, it goes around) the blocked portion of the coronary artery. This new passage routes oxygen-rich blood around the blockage to the heart muscle. As many as four major blocked coronary arteries can be by-passed during one surgery.
CABG is the most common type of open-heart surgery in the United States, with more than 500,000 surgeries performed each year. Doc-tors called cardiothoracic surgeons perform this surgery.
Excerpted from text by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI,, part of the National Institutes of Health, March 2007.
CABG isn’t used for everyone with CAD. Many people with CAD can be treated by other means, such as lifestyle changes, medicines, and another revascularization procedure called angioplasty.
CABG may be an option if you have severe blockages in the large coronary arteries that supply a major part of the heart muscle with blood—especially if the heart’s pumping action has already been weakened.
CABG may also be an option if you have blockages in the heart that can’t be treated with angioplasty. In these situations, CABG is considered more effective than other types of treatment.
If you’re a candidate for CABG, the goals of having the surgery are the following:
• Improve your quality of life and decrease angina and other symptoms of CAD
• Resume a more active lifestyle
• Improve the pumping action of the heart if it has been damaged by a heart attack
• Lower the chances of a heart attack (in some patients, such as those with diabetes)
• Improve your chance of survival
Repeat surgery may be needed if grafted arteries or veins become blocked, or if new blockages develop in arteries that weren’t blocked before. Taking medicines as prescribed and making lifestyle changes that your doctor recommends can lower the chance of a graft becoming blocked.
In people who are candidates for the surgery, the results are usually excellent, with 85 percent of people having significantly reduced symptoms, less risk for future heart attacks, and a decreased chance of dying within 10 years following the surgery.
Types of Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting
Traditional Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting
This is the most common type of coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG). It’s used when at least one major artery needs to be bypassed. During the surgery, the chest bone is opened to access the heart. Medicines are given to stop the heart, and a heart-lung machine is used to keep blood and oxygen moving throughout the body during surgery. This allows the surgeon to operate on a still heart. After surgery, the heart is restarted using mild electric shocks.
Off-Pump Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting
This type of CABG is similar to traditional CABG in that the chest bone is opened to access the heart. However, the heart isn’t stopped, and a heart-lung machine isn’t used. Off-pump CABG is sometimes called beating heart bypass grafting. This type of surgery may reduce complications that can occur when a heart-lung machine is used, and it may speed up recovery time after surgery.
Minimally Invasive Direct Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting This surgery is similar to off-pump, but instead of a large incision to open the chest bone, several small incisions are made on the left side of the chest between the ribs. This type of surgery is used mainly for bypassing the vessels in front of the heart. It’s a fairly new procedure, which is performed less often than the other types. This type of surgery is not for everybody, especially if more than one or two coronary arteries need to be bypassed.
Other Names for Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting
• Bypass surgery
• Coronary artery bypass surgery
• Heart bypass surgery
When Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting Is Needed
Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) is only used to treat people who have severe coronary artery disease (CAD) that could lead to a heart attack.
Your doctor may recommend CABG if other treatments, such as lifestyle changes or medicines, haven’t worked. He or she also may recommend CABG if you have severe blockages in the large coronary arteries that supply a major part of the heart muscle with blood— especially if your heart’s pumping action has already been weakened. CABG also may be a treatment option if you have blockages in the heart that can’t be treated with angioplasty.
Your doctor will determine if you’re a candidate for CABG based on a number of factors. These include the presence and severity of CAD symptoms, the severity and location of blockages in your coronary arteries, your response to other treatments, your quality of life, and any other medical problems you may have.
In some cases, CABG may be performed on an emergency basis, such as pending or during a heart attack.
What to Expect before Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting
Tests may be done to prepare you for coronary artery bypass grafting, including blood tests, EKG, echocardiogram, chest x-ray, cardiac
catheterization, and angiography.
Your doctor will give you specific instructions about how to pre-pare for surgery. There will be instructions about what to eat or drink, what medicines to take, and what activities to stop (such as smoking). You will likely be admitted to the hospital on the same day as the surgery.
What to Expect during Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting
Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) requires a team of experts. A cardiothoracic surgeon performs the surgery with support from an anesthesiologist, per fusionist (heart-lung machine specialist), other surgeons, and nurses.
There are several different types of CABG. They range from traditional surgery in which the chest is opened to reach the heart, to a nontraditional surgery in which small incisions are made to bypass the narrowed artery.
Traditional Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting
This type of surgery usually lasts 3 to 5 hours, depending on the number of arteries being bypassed. Numerous steps take place during traditional CABG.
Anesthesia is given to put you to sleep. During the surgery, the anesthesiologist monitors your heartbeat, blood pressure, oxygen levels, and breathing. A breathing tube is placed in your lungs through your throat, and connected to a ventilator (breathing machine). An incision is made down the center of your chest. The chest bone is then cut and your ribcage is opened so that the surgeon can get to your heart.
Medicines are used to stop your heart, which allows the surgeon to operate on it while it’s not beating. A heart-lung machine keeps oxygen-rich blood moving throughout your body. An artery or vein is taken from a different part of your body, such as your chest or leg, and prepared to be used as a graft for the bypass. In surgery with several bypasses, a combination of both artery and vein grafts is commonly used.
• Artery grafts:
These grafts are much less likely than vein grafts to become blocked over time. The left internal mammary artery is most commonly used for an artery graft. It’s located in-side the chest close to the heart. Arteries from the arm or other places in the body are sometimes used as well.
•Vein grafts:
Although veins are commonly used as grafts, they’re more likely than artery grafts to develop plaque and become blocked over time. The saphenous vein—a long vein running along the inner side of the leg—is typically used. After the grafting is complete, your heart is restarted using mild electric shocks. You’re disconnected from the heart-lung machine.
Tubes are inserted into your chest to drain fluid. The surgeon uses wires that stay in your body permanently to close your chest bone and stitches or staples to close the skin incision. The breathing tube is removed when you’re able to breathe without it.
Nontraditional Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting
Nontraditional CABG includes off-pump CABG and minimally invasive CABG. Off-pump coronary artery bypass grafting: This type of surgery can be used to bypass any of the coronary arteries. Off-pump CABG also is called beating heart bypass grafting because the heart isn’t stopped and a heart-lung machine isn’t used. Instead, the part of the heart where grafting is being done is steadied with a mechanical device.
Off-pump CABG may reduce complications that can occur when a heart-lung machine is used, especially in people who have had a stroke or mini-strokes in the past, who are over age 70, and who have diabetes, lung disease, or kidney disease.
Other advantages of this type of bypass surgery include the following:
• Reduced bleeding during surgery and a lower chance of needing a blood transfusion
• A lower chance of infection, stroke, and kidney complications
• A lower chance of complications such as memory loss, difficulty concentrating, or difficulty thinking clearly
• Faster recovery from the surgery Minimally invasive direct coronary artery bypass grafting:
There are several types of minimally invasive direct coronary artery bypass (MIDCAB) grafting. These types of surgery differ from traditional bypass surgery because they only require small incisions rather than opening the chest bone to get to the heart. These procedures sometimes use a heart-lung machine.
• MIDCAB procedure:
This procedure is used when only one or two coronary arteries need to be bypassed. A series of small incisions is made between your ribs on the left side of your chest, directly over the artery to be bypassed. The incisions are usually about 3 inches long. (The incisions made in traditional CABG are at least 6 to 8 inches long.) The left internal mammary artery is most often used for the graft. A heart-lung machine isn’t used during this procedure.
• Port-access coronary artery bypass procedure:
This procedure is performed through small incisions (ports) made in your chest. Artery or vein grafts are used. The heart-lung machine is used during this procedure.
• Robot-assisted technique:
This type of procedure allows for even smaller, keyhole-sized incisions. A small video camera is inserted in one incision to show the heart, while the surgeon uses remotely controlled surgical instruments to perform the surgery. The heart-lung machine is sometimes used during this procedure.
Advantages of minimally invasive CABG include smaller incisions, smaller scars, shorter recovery and hospital stay, less bleeding, less chance for infection, and less pain.
What to Expect after Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting
Recovery in the Hospital
After surgery, you will typically spend 1 or 2 days in an intensive care unit. Your heart rate and blood pressure will be continuously monitored during this time. Intravenous medicines (medicines injected through a vein) are often given to regulate blood circulation and blood pressure. You will then be moved to a less intensive care area of the hospital for 3 to 5 days before going home.
Recovery at Home
Your doctor will give you specific instructions for recovering at home, especially concerning the following issues:
• How to care for your healing incisions
• How to recognize signs of infection or other complications
• When to call the doctor immediately
• When to make follow-up appointments
You may also receive instructions on how to deal with common after-effects from surgery. After-effects often go away within 4 to 6 weeks after surgery, but may include the following:
• Discomfort or itching from healing incisions
• Swelling of the area where an artery or vein was taken for grafting
• Muscle pain or tightness in the shoulders and upper back
• Fatigue (tiredness), mood swings, or depression
• Difficulty sleeping or loss of appetite
• Constipation
• Chest pain around the site of the chest bone incision (more frequent with the traditional surgery)
Full recovery from traditional CABG may take 6 to 12 weeks or more. Less recovery time is needed for nontraditional CABG.
Your doctor will provide instructions on resuming physical activity. This varies from person to person, but there are some typical timeframes. Most people can resume sexual activity within about 4 weeks and driving after 3 to 8 weeks.
Returning to work after 6 weeks is common unless the job involves specific and demanding physical activity. Some people may need to find less physically demanding types of work or work a reduced schedule at first.


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