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Having a Coronary Artery Bypass

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 10 Apr 2013 | comments*Discuss
Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting Cabg

Stemming from the main artery of the body the aorta, the coronary arteries supply the heart muscle with its own blood supply.You will need this operation if the coronary arteries of the heart become narrowed in some way, which is most often due to Artherosclerosis, which means the lining of the vessels has become clogged up by fatty material. When these vessels become blocked angina and heart attack can occur as the heart struggles to function on a reduced or compromised blood and oxygen supply.

The operation is called a Coronary Artery Bypass Graft, often shortened to CABG and can be done to just one or all three of the coronary arteries; this is known as a triple bypass.

The procedure is carried out as a way of improving the blood supply to the heart, minimising the risk of future attacks of angina and the consequences of coronary heart disease. For many people, it is a life changing operation and can prevent early death from occurring due to heart disease.

What is Involved in the Procedure?

This procedure is major surgery and usually involves accessing the heart through the chest cavity using a large incision, although techniques using more minimal access are being developed. The surgeon will already know which artery or arteries need operating on from the diagnostic tests that will have been carried out prior to surgery.

Using a graft, often an artery from the leg or arm, the diseased area is bypassed by stitching one end of the graft clear of the affected area of the diseased vessel, and the other to the aorta, hence allowing for a smooth flow of blood to the heart without relying on diseased vessels.

Sometimes a vessel that is found in the chest is used and simply redirected to around the affected area.

What to Expect

As with all surgical procedures, you will normally be required to refrain from eating or drinking for at least six to eight hours prior to surgery.You will be seen by the doctor, anaesthetist and other members of the surgical team before your operation.

The operation can take several hours and most patients will wake up in either a high dependency unit or an intensive care unit for the immediate stages of recovery.Expect an incision roughly eight inches long, sometimes longer, on your chest area. And several wound drainage systems to be in place.

Pain relief will be offered regularly, which should be used as the body has endured some major changes and will feel sore and stiff for a while.Patients will often be seen by a physiotherapist who will advise on exercises that can be undertaken to help speed up recovery and prevent post-operative complications such as chest infections from developing.

Hospital stay may be as little as five days, but may be up to two weeks depending on the success of the operation, the general health of the patient and how well the wounds heal.

Coronary artery bypass grafting is a very successful procedure helping to reduce the effects of heart disease. It is major surgery and all complications and risks should be discussed before consent for the operation is given.

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