Understanding Heart Bypass Surgery

Arteries are designed to carry blood from the heart to the rest of your body. Occasionally as a result of diet and other factors these arteries can become clogged and result in a very dangerous blockage. When this happens surgeons must operate and take an existing artery from another part of the body and use it to bypass the clot.

When does someone need coronary artery bypass surgery?


The aorta supplies blood from the heart to the body. At its base are 2 primary blood vessels the supply blood to the heart. These branch out several times to supply the entire heart with blood.

When plaque buildup narrows an artery by around 70% of its usual size, the artery is essentially blocked. This is when surgery is required. For cases with less severe blockage they can usually be relieved by angioplasty and stenting. This involves inserting a balloon into the vessel and inflating it to open up the passage. A stent is then inserted to keep the path open.

What is multiple bypass surgery?

Multiple bypass surgery occurs when several arteries are blocked, and several bypasses are needed. An example of this would be quadruple bypass surgery. If there are blockages in all 3 coronary arteries and in 1 branch, a person would need a quadruple bypass.

It is important to note that a person’s risk from surgery does not necessary increase with the number of bypasses needed. But rather the patients overall health, Diabetes and other factors as well as the condition of the heart muscle itself.

How is bypass surgery done?

First, Doctors must take a section of blood vessel from another part of the body. This can be done becuase the body has more than one way of getting blood to other parts of the body.

The surgeon then attaches one end of the graft to the aorta and the other end to the coronary artery below the blockage.

The traditional operation calls for a six- to eight-inch cut down the center of the breastbone so the surgeon can get directly at the heart. During the operation, the body is connected to a heart-lung bypass machine that keeps the blood flowing. The heart is stopped while the doctor operates. Then the surgeon uses special wires to close the chest.

Sometimes its possible for the surgeon to use minimally invasive surgical techniques. In this case, the incision is much smaller. And in some cases, the heart does not even have to be stopped. However, these techniques can’t be used for all bypass surgeries.