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Heart bypass surgery is the common name for coronary artery bypass surgery or coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG – often pronounced ‘cabbage’).Because of skyrocketing costs of health care in the US, some people are looking abroad for coronary bypass surgery. Also people from the underserved areas look for coronary bypass surgery in countries like India and Mexico.
Heart bypass surgery is done to treat coronary artery disease (CAD), the condition in which the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the heart harden and thicken. But coronary artery bypass surgery is not to be taken lightly. It is recommended only when lifestyle changes and medicines don’t work.
In the heart bypass surgery, a piece of a vein from the leg or artery from the chest or wrist is used as the graft. This is attached to the coronary artery above and below the blockage, thus creating a bypass for blood flow. Some patients may need more than one bypass. There are three types of heart bypass surgery. They are:
This is the most common type and is performed when at least one major artery has to be bypassed. The surgery involves opening the chest bone to get through to the heart. The body is put on a heart-lung machine as the heart needs to be stopped during the surgery. The heart is re-started after the surgery with mild electric shocks.
It is much like the traditional CABG as in the chest bone is opened to access the heart, but the heart isn’t stopped. Hence, a heart-lung machine is not required in this method. This type of surgery is also called beating heart bypass grafting. It may cut down complications and speed up recovery, when compared to the traditional method of surgery.
Instead of opening up the chest bone, several small incisions are made on the left side of the chest between the ribs. This method is mainly employed for bypassing the vessels in front of the heart. It’s a comparatively new procedure not performed as frequently as the other types. It is also not recommended for people who have blockages in more than one or two coronary arteries.
CABG is a major surgery and the recuperation period is fairly long. Hence, here are a few tips for you to prepare for heart bypass surgery (detailed instructions will be provided by your health professional):
Care after heart bypass surgery is very important. Mainly, all the factors that originally caused the blockages in the heart need to be kept in control. Here are some guidelines:
It has been seen that there are more chances of complications developing after heart bypass surgery if it was an emergency situation (for example, if performed during a heart attack), if you are over 70, or if you are or were a smoker. You are also more at risk if you have other diseases or conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, lung disease, or peripheral vascular disease. Risks of heart bypass are:
Most CABG patients have a good prognosis, provided they are committed to the cardiac rehabilitation program. You can look forward to the following benefits from heart bypass surgery:
The first and most important alternative to CABG is, of course, medication and a change in lifestyle. Only when this does not work or when there is not enough time to exercise these options, surgery is advised.
The other alternatives are balloon angioplasty and stent placement. (Angioplasty includes temporarily inserting and expanding a tiny balloon at the blockage site to widen the narrowed artery. A small metal coil called a stent is then implanted in the clogged artery to prop it open and see that it does not narrow again.)
Balloon angioplasty and stents increase blood flow, but are not for everyone. Your doctor will talk to you about what’s the best option for you.
Stenting has certain restrictions when compared to CABG. Heart stents are recommended only if:
Not everyone meets these conditions and are, hence, best suited for heart bypass. Also, studies indicate that bypass surgery results in better outcomes than angioplasty in patients with multi-vessel disease, and at a lower cost.
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