The things you need to know about heart bypass surgery and how to avoid it

Heart bypass surgery is a procedure used to make another route for oxygen rich blood to travel through the heart. This way, the blockage is avoided but not removed.

High cholesterol, unbalanced hormones responsible for blood coagulation such as estrogen and progesteron as well as high fat diets can lead to atherosclerosis and blood clots.

As a consequence of all this, coronary arteries, also known as arteries of the heart muscle, get clogged. Blocked coronary arteries can lead to heart attack, dying of the heart tissue and even death.

Bypass surgery is used to treat coronary artery disease as well as to relieve chest pain and shortness of breath which is caused by blocked coronary arteries.


The goal of the bypass surgery is to bridge blocked arteries in the heart. However, to do so, the surgeon needs a new piece of blood vessels. These blood vessels are taken from the chest, forearm or more commonly, from the leg. The body has a few "spare" blood vessels which can be removed and used for purposes such as this one, without endangering our health.

The procedure is done with general anesthesia because of which you don't remember and feel anything during the heart bypass surgery. The surgeon will make an incision in the middle of the chest and seperate your breast bone, in order to get to the heart and coronary arteries.

From this point on, there are two options. Your heart can be stopped for about 30-90 minutes, while the machine does its job by adding oxygen and pumping oxygen rich blood through the body.

On the other hand, if a person experiences problems while on the heart-lung machine, the surgery can be preformed without stopping the heart.

After the new vein, the graft, is in place, the surgeon will close breastbone with wire and tissue with stitches. Procedure lasts from 4 to 6 hours, after which you are taken to the intensive care unit, for recovery and observation.


It takes some time, usually 3 to 6 months and sometimes longer, to recover from the surgery. After 4 to 6 weeks, you will start feeling better. However, it all depends on your age, diet, stress and the condition of your body. Surgery is not always permanent solution since the graft can sometimes close, in which case, another surgery is required.

Also, arteries in the heart can get clogged, again. This primarily depends on foods you eat, activity level, blood pressure values, hormones, smoking habits as well as on your blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides levels.

If you have some other form of disease, besides diabetes, such as kidney or liver disease, then the risk of relapse, increases. Kidneys have a great role in regulating blood pressure while the liver, along with gallbladder, is responsible for producing and processing cholesterol.

However, new artery can work well for years, especially if you take care of yourself.


As any surgery, especially a procedure complex as this one, has risks. This may include:

  • Chest wound infection
  • Shortness of breath
  • Blood clots
  • Kidney failure
  • Lung failure
  • Bleeding
  • Chest pain
  • Heart attack
  • Arrhythmia
  • Mental problems
  • Fever

    Before any surgery, it is important to tell your doctor which medications or supplements you are taking. They can affect blood clotting, heart function or a vital organs which can cause life threatening problems, during the surgery, such as bleeding. The doctor will determine what you can take and what not to take, 10 to 15 days before as well as on the day of the surgery.

    Make sure to shower before the heart bypass surgery. You may even get a special soap to disinfect your skin more thoroughly, especially the chest area, in order to decrease the risk of infection, after the surgery. If you have a fever, flu, you are feeling weak because of some other viral disease or something else, contact your doctor. There is a good chance that the surgery will be postponed, for your own safety.

    It would be great if you stick to healthy diet before the surgery. However,you will most likely be told to avoid foods and liquids, after midnight, the night before the surgery. If your mouth gets dry, you can rinse it with water but don't swallow it unless told otherwise.

    If you smoke, try to quit, at least a week before and after the surgery. Also, organize your home for the time you will be home, recovering from the surgery.


    After the surgery, you will stay for about a week in the hospital for recovery and observation. You will also be attached to the devices which will monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, temperature and few other vital signs.

    A couple tubes will be in your chest, in order to drain the accumulated fluid around your heart but they are usually removed one to three days later.

    Nurse may even attach a catheter to drain the urine. If the situation requires, IV can also be attached to your arm, in order to administer the medications or the fluids intravenously, if needed.


    If there is need to make three or even four new grafts, four new routes, for blood to flow through the heart then it is called triple or quadruple heart bypass surgery. This makes the procedure even more complicated, longer and riskier due to its complexity.

    There is also minimally invasive bypass surgery which has several benefits but it is up to your doctor to determine if you are a candidate for this type of procedure. It is mainly used on people whose heart may be to weak for traditional bypass surgery or due to some other condition.

    Since it is preformed with smaller incision, there is less risk involved. This includes faster recovery, less bleeding and smaller risk of infection and post surgery complications.

    Although, heart bypass surgery can be very effective and for some people only valuable option, if you take care of yourself, even if you are a candidate for these type of surgery in the future, there is a good chance that you won't need it or at very least prolong the time till the surgery.

    Work on lowering your cholesterol, blood sugar levels, fat percentage and on balancing your hormones as well as your immune system.

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