Coronary artery bypass surgery, also coronary artery bypass graft surgery, and colloquially heart bypass or bypass surgery is a surgical procedure performed to relieve angina and reduce the risk of death from coronary artery disease. Arteries or veins from elsewhere in the patient's body are grafted to the coronary arteries to bypass atherosclerotic narrowings and improve the blood supply to the coronary circulation supplying the myocardium (heart muscle). This surgery is usually performed with the heart stopped, necessitating the usage of cardiopulmonary bypass; techniques are available to perform CABG on a beating heart, so-called "off-pump" surgery.
The first coronary artery bypass surgery was performed on May 2, 1960 at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine-Bronx Municipal Hospital Center
by a team led by Dr. Robert Goetz and the thoracic surgeon, Dr. Michael Rohman with the assistance of Dr. Jordan Haller and Dr. Ronald Dee.
There are many variations on terminology, in which one or more of 'artery', 'bypass' or 'graft' is left out. The most frequently used acronym for this type of surgery is CABG
(pronounced 'cabbage'), pluralized as CABGs
(pronounced 'cabbages'). More recently the term aortocoronary bypass (ACB)
has come into popular use. CAGS
(Coronary Artery Graft Surgery, pronounced phonetically) has been used (primarily outside the United States
) and should not be confused with Coronary Angiography (CAG)
Arteriosclerosis is a common arterial disorder characterized by thickening, loss of elasticity, and calcification of arterial walls, resulting in a decreased blood supply.
Atherosclerosis is a common arterial disorder characterized by yellowish plaques of cholesterol, lipids, and cellular debris in the inner layer of the walls of large and medium-sized arteries.
Number of bypasses
The terms single bypass
, double bypass
, triple bypass
, quadruple bypass
and quintuple bypass
refer to the number of coronary arteries bypassed in the procedure. In other words, a double bypass means two coronary arteries are bypassed (e.g. the left anterior descending (LAD)
coronary artery and right coronary artery (RCA)
); a triple bypass means three vessels are bypassed (e.g. LAD, RCA, left circumflex artery (LCX)
); a quadruple bypass means four vessels are bypassed (e.g. LAD, RCA, LCX, first diagonal artery of the LAD) while quintuple means five. Less commonly more than four coronary arteries may be bypassed.
A greater number of bypasses does not imply a person is "sicker," nor does a lesser number imply a person is "healthier. A person with a large amount of coronary artery disease (CAD) may receive fewer bypass grafts due to the lack of suitable "target" vessels. A coronary artery may be unsuitable for bypass grafting it if it is small (< 1 mm or < 1.5 mm depending on surgeon preference), heavily calcified (meaning the artery does not have a section free of CAD) or intramyocardial (the coronary artery is located within the heart muscle rather than on the surface of the heart). Similarly, a person with a single stenosis ("narrowing") of the left main coronary artery requires only two bypasses (to the LAD and the LCX). However, a left main lesion places a person at the highest risk for death from a cardiac cause.
The surgeon reviews the coronary angiogram prior to surgery and identifies the lesions (or "blockages") in the coronary arteries. The surgeon will estimate the number of bypass grafts prior to surgery, but the final decision is made in the operating room upon examination of the heart.
Indications for CABG
Several alternative treatments for coronary artery disease exist. They include:
Both PCI and CABG are more effective than medical management at relieving symptoms, (e.g. angina, dyspnea, fatigue). CABG is superior to PCI in multivessel CAD (more than one diseased artery), although the ARTS II registry suggests PCI with drug-eluting stents (DES) may be not inferior to CABG.
The ARTS II registry compared a cohort of patients treated with DES and contemporary medical management to the historical CABG cohort in the ARTS I trial and concluded drug-eluting stenting is not inferior to CABG for treatment of multivessel coronary disease. The Surgery or Stent (SoS) trial was a randomized controlled trial that compared CABG to PCI with bare-metal stents. The SoS trial demonstrated CABG is superior to PCI in multivessel coronary disease.
No randomized trial comparing CABG and DES has been completed, although two trials of DES versus CABG are currently enrolling patients - SYNTAX (Synergy Between Percutaneous Coronary Intervention With Taxus and Cardiac Surgery) and FREEDOM (Future Revascularization Evaluation in Patients With Diabetes Mellitus—Optimal Management of Multivessel Disease). The registries of the nonrandomized patients screened for these trials may provide as much robust data regarding revascularization outcomes as the randomized analysis.
A recent study comparing the outcomes of all patients in New York state treated with CABG or percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) demonstrated CABG was superior to PCI with DES in multivessel (more than one diseased artery) coronary artery disease (CAD). Patients treated with CABG had lower rates of death and of death or myocardial infarction than treatment with a coronary stent. Patients undergoing CABG also had lower rates of repeat revascularization. The New York State registry included all patients undergoing revascularization for coronary artery disease, but was not a randomized trial, and so may have reflected other factors besides the method of coronary revascularization.
The 2004 ACC/AHA CABG guidelines state CABG is the preferred treatment for:
The 2005 ACC/AHA guidelines further state:
CABG is the likely the preferred treatment with other high-risk patients such as those with severe ventricular dysfunction (i.e. low ejection fraction), or diabetes mellitus.
Prognosis following CABG depends on a variety of factors, but successful grafts typically last around 10-15 years. In general, CABG improves the chances of survival of patients who are at high risk (meaning those presenting with angina pain shown to be due to ischemic heart disease), but statistically after about 5 years the difference in survival rate between those who have had surgery and those treated by drug therapy diminishes. Age at the time of CABG is critical to the prognosis, younger patients with no complicating diseases have a high probability of greater longevity. The older patient can usually be expected to suffer further blockage of the coronary arteries.
- The patient is brought to the operating room and moved onto the operating table.
- An anaesthetist places a variety of intravenous lines and injects an induction agent (usually propofol) to render the person unconscious.
- An endotracheal tube is inserted and secured by the anesthetist or assistant (e.g. respiratory therapist or nurse anesthetist) and mechanical ventilation is started.
- The chest is opened via a median sternotomy and the heart is examined by the surgeon.
- The bypass grafts are harvested - frequent conduits are the internal thoracic arteries, radial arteries and saphenous veins. When harvesting is done, the patient is given heparin to prevent the blood from clotting.
- In the case of "off-pump" surgery, the surgeon places devices to stabilize the heart.
- If the case is "on-pump", the surgeon sutures cannulae into the heart and instructs the perfusionist to start cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB). Once CPB is established, the surgeon places the aortic cross-clamp across the aorta and instructs the perfusionist to deliver cardioplegia to stop the heart.
- One end of each graft is sewn onto the coronary arteries beyond the blockages and the other end is attached to the aorta.
- The heart is restarted; or in "off-pump" surgery, the stabilizing devices are removed. In some cases, the Aorta is partially occluded by a C shaped clamp, the heart is restarted and suturing of the grafts to the aorta is done in this partially occluded section of the aorta while the heart is beating.
- Protamine is given to reverse the effects of heparin.
- The sternum is wired together and the incisions are sutured closed.
- The person is moved to the intensive care unit (ICU) to recover. After awakening and stabilizing in the ICU (approximately 1 day), the person is transferred to the cardiac surgery ward until ready to go home (approximately 4 days).
Minimally Invasive CABG
Alternate methods of minimally invasive coronary artery bypass surgery have been developed in recent times. Off-pump coronary artery bypass surgery
(OPCAB) is a technique of performing bypass surgery without the use of cardiopulmonary bypass
(the heart-lung machine). Further refinements to OPCAB have resulted in minimally invasive direct coronary artery bypass surgery
(MIDCAB), a technique of performing bypass surgery through a 5 to 10 cm incision.
Conduits used for bypass
The choice of conduits is highly surgeon and institution dependent. Typically, the left internal thoracic artery
(LITA) (previously referred to as left internal mammary artery
) is grafted to the left anterior descending
artery and a combination of other arteries and veins is used for other coronary arteries. The right internal thoracic artery (RITA), the great saphenous vein
from the leg and the radial artery
from the forearm are frequently used. The right gastroepiploic artery
from the stomach
is infrequently used given the difficult mobilization from the abdomen
Grafts can become diseased and may occlude in the months to years after bypass surgery is performed. Patency is a term used to describe the chance that a graft remain open. A graft is considered patent if there is flow through the graft without any significant (>70% diameter) stenosis in the graft.
Graft patency is dependent on a number of factors, including the type of graft used (internal thoracic artery, radial artery, or great saphenous vein), the size or the coronary artery that the graft is anastomosed with, and, of course, the skill of the surgeon(s) performing the procedure. Arterial grafts (e.g. LITA, radial) are far more sensitive to rough handling than the saphenous veins and may go into spasm if handled improperly.
Generally the best patency rates are achieved with the in-situ (the proximal end is left connected to the subclavian artery) left internal thoracic artery with the distal end being anastomosed with the coronary artery (typically the left anterior descending artery or a diagonal branch artery). Lesser patency rates can be expected with radial artery grafts and "free" internal thoracic artery grafts (where the proximal end of the thoracic artery is excised from its origin from the subclavian artery and re-anastomosed with the ascending aorta). Saphenous vein grafts have worse patency rates, but are more available, as the patients can have multiple segments of the saphenous vein used to bypass different arteries.
Veins that are used either have their valves removed or are turned around so that the valves in them do not occlude blood flow in the graft. LITA grafts are longer-lasting than vein grafts, both because the artery is more robust than a vein and because, being already connected to the arterial tree, the LITA need only be grafted at one end. The LITA is usually grafted to the left anterior descending coronary artery (LAD) because of its superior long-term patency when compared to saphenous vein grafts.
Patients undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery will have to avoid certain things to avoid opening the incision. These are called sternal precautions. First, patients need to avoid using their arms excessively, such as pushing themselves out of a chair or reaching back before sitting down. To avoid this, patients are encouraged to build up momentum by rocking several times in their chair before standing up. Second, patients should avoid lifting anything in excess of 5-10 pounds. A gallon of milk weighs approximately 8.5 pounds, and is a good reference point for weight limitations. Finally, patients should avoid overhead activities with their hands, such as reaching for sweaters from the top shelf of a closet or reaching for plates or cups from the cupboard.
People undergoing coronary artery bypass are at risk for the same complications as any surgery, plus some risks more common with or unique to CABG.