Understanding coronary artery bypass graft surgery

If you have one or more coronary arteries that are blocked or narrowed, your doctor may recommend heart bypass surgery.

Coronary artery bypass graft surgery, or CABG (pronounced “cabbage”) , is a procedure to restore healthy blood flow to the heart. Many patients are surprised to learn that a heart bypass operation actually includes two surgical procedures.

  1. First, one or more healthy blood vessels are removed (or harvested) from your chest, leg, or arm to be used in creating the bypass or bypasses.
  2. Next, the surgeon creates a bypass, or detour, around the damaged or blocked artery or arteries in the heart.

With these new bypasses, the heart can then receive its much needed blood supply.

The bypass part of the surgery

When using a vessel from the arm or leg a surgeon connects, or grafts, one end of the harvested vessel to the aorta—which supplies blood to the heart. The other end is attached to the coronary artery that has a blockage, bypassing the blocked portion of coronary artery to restore blood flow.

It is not uncommon for a surgeon to perform one or more of these grafts during an operation — Depending upon how many bypass grafts the surgeon performs, this can be referred to as double (2), triple (3), quadruple (4) or more bypasses.

understanding bypass