Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting

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A coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) restores blood flow to the heart muscle. This surgery uses blood vessels from other parts of the body to make a new route for blood to flow around blocked coronary arteries.

Do I Need CABG?

Atherosclerosis occurs when cholesterol and fatty deposits build up on the walls of the arteries and restrict blood flow. It may lead to chest pain or heart attack.

You might need CABG if making lifestyle changes and taking medication hasn't eliminated the artery disease. Cardiologists often recommend CABG when they find:

  • Severe blockage in the main artery or in several blood vessels that supply blood to the heart
  • Persistent angina that does not improve with other treatments

To assess your eligibility for CABG, you may undergo these diagnostics: 

  • Physical exam
  • Chest X-ray
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG)
  • Coronary angiogram

CABG Treatment at UVA

U.S. News & World Report has given our heart bypass surgery services the highest possible performance ratings. That means our heart failure care is rated significantly better than the national average.

At UVA, we offer two versions of the CABG procedure: standard and minimally invasive.

Standard CABG Procedure

Standard CABG requires a surgeon to open your chest through the sternum. Your surgical team then connects you to a heart-lung machine that breathes for you, while your heart stops for the procedure. 

The cardiac surgeon then removes either an artery from your chest wall or a section of vein from your leg. The surgeon then grafts these new vessels to the blocked arteries, attaching the ends on either side of the blockage, forming the bypass.

Once in place, your heart can begin to beat on its own without the heart-lung machine. The surgeon wires your breastbone together, then stitches or staples your chest closed. 

Surgery takes about 4-5 hours and requires a 5-7 day stay in the hospital, with the following interventions:

  • Heart monitor
  • Pacing wires to control heart rate
  • Tubes connected to a machine to drain fluids from the wound
  • Breathing tube or an oxygen mask
  • Catheter inserted into the bladder

While in the hospital, we'll have you breathe deeply and cough 10-20 times every hour to reduce the risk of fluid buildup in your lungs. You must elevate your leg if a leg vein was removed during surgery.

Minimally Invasive Coronary Artery Surgery (MICS CABG)

This advanced technique allows surgeons to carry out a complete multiple bypass operation through only a small chest incision. With video and/or robotics, the surgeon uses an artery from your chest for the bypass. Unlike with standard CABG, your heart remains beating during the procedure.

MICS CABG Eligibility

Surgeons perform MICS CABG on patients with only one or two clogged arteries. If your age or medical history made you too high risk for open-heart surgery, you might be eligible for MICS CABG. 

Benefits of MICS CABG

MICS CABG gives patients:

  • Shorter hospital stays
  • Faster recovery
  • Better scar healing
  • Infection risk reduction

After the procedure, you can expect to be:

  • Out of bed and walking within 12 hours
  • Home within 2-4 days
  • Driving within 2 weeks
  • Returning to work in 4-6 weeks (6-12 for standard CABG)
  • Without physical restrictions

See your surgeon for an exam to evaluate your options.

Content was created using EBSCO's Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.