Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting
When arteries that feed oxygen to the heart are blocked, the heart muscle is at risk for damage – called a heart attack – and even death. In an operation known as coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG), an artery or vein from another part of the body is used to reroute blood flow around the blockage. Surgeons use chest wall arteries (known as internal mammary arteries) and segments of the patient’s own veins to construct new pathways for blood and oxygen to reach the heart. The veins used for this reconstruction are usually taken from the patient’s legs, using a minimally invasive technique that leaves only a few tiny incisions. By restoring blood flow to the heart, CABG can relieve symptoms and potentially prevent a heart attack. Coronary bypass operations are performed half a million times a year with an overall success rate of almost 98 percent.
There are two types of CABG operations currently available: on-pump and off-pump surgery. On-pump procedures require the surgeon to open the chest bone (sternum), stop the patient's heart, and place the patient on a heart-lung machine. This machine takes over the function of the patient's heart—delivering oxygenated blood through out the body and brain—while the bypass is performed.