What Is Heart Bypass Surgery?


Quick Answer

Heart bypass surgery is a procedure to navigate arterial grafts around blocked arteries, restoring healthy circulation of blood and oxygen to the heart, Mayo Clinic states. The surgery involves removing a blood vessel from the chest, arm, leg or abdomen and attaching it to a coronary artery.

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What Is Heart Bypass Surgery?
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Full Answer

A heart bypass, also known as a coronary bypass, relieves symptoms of heart disease, such as angina and shortness of breath, according to Mayo Clinic. The severity and location of blocked arteries determine the number of bypasses a patient needs, which typically ranges from two to four. During the procedure, a surgeon makes an incision along the patient's breastbone and opens the ribcage to reach the heart. The surgeon bypasses the affected artery by attaching the two ends of the grafted blood vessel above and below the area of constricted blood flow. In an on-pump surgery, the doctor stops the patient's heart and uses a machine to manage blood flow temporarily. In an off-pump surgery, the doctor uses equipment to keep the heart beating during the procedure.

Depending on the type of coronary blockage, doctors have multiple options for sourcing a blood vessel graft, Cleveland Clinic notes. For example, surgeons can utilize a radial artery from the arm, connecting one end to a coronary artery and the other end to the aorta. Other common grafts include thoracic arteries from the chest cavity and saphenous veins from the legs.

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