Before going into Coronary Bypass Surgery straightaway, let’s learn about what causes it, i.e., Coronary Heart Disease.
Coronary Heart Disease (CHD):
We have all heard about Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), but what is it?
Well, for beginners, the heart has arteries that carry oxygenated blood away from the heart to the rest of the body, and veins that carry deoxygenated blood from the body back to the heart for reoxygenation.
CHD is when the coronary arteries become too narrow. This tends to happen when cholesterol builds up on the artery walls over time. The build up is called plaque, and they are bumps which narrow the arterial passage, which results in reduced blood flow out of the heart.
Plaque can grow into clots which are dangerous when they obstruct blood flow as it then prevents the heart to receive its constant flow of oxygen, even more so when it has to work harder during stressful situations like physical activity.
CHD can lead to a heart attack, which is when a part of the heart muscle dies due to insufficient blood supply. This happens when the artery supplying blood to that particular muscle is blocked by a blood clot.
If the artery is partially blocked, there are options to treat the condition either with long-term medication or by surgical procedures, e.g., angioplasty and stent surgery.
If the artery is totally blocked, one option to overcome this blockage is to go around it, and here is where coronary bypass surgery comes in if recommended by your medical practitioner.
What is coronary bypass surgery?
In short, coronary bypass surgery involves going around a blocked artery to improve blood flow to the rest of your heart. It is major surgery but with good recovery rates depending on the patient’s condition.
The procedure starts off with the removal of a healthy blood vessel from another part of the body, normally the leg or the arm, and connecting it outside the blocked area of the artery, hence the term “bypass” comes in.
Coronary bypass surgery is not a cure for heart disease caused by blockages. However, it can ease symptoms of shortness of breath and chest pain, and improve the heart’s function with the rest of the healthy heart muscles, and improve blood circulation.
Purpose of having coronary bypass surgery:
Your medical practitioner and cardiologist may consider this option if:
- Test results reveal the narrowing of a few arteries in your heart, that leave you constantly feeling tired during light movement or even when you are resting.
- The main coronary artery is badly constricted or blocked.
- Test results reveal your left ventricle, the heart’s main pumping chamber, is malfunctioning, indicating one or more diseased coronary arteries.
- Previous heart procedures like angioplasty, commonly known as ballooning, or stent failure, or restenosis where placement of a stent was successful but the artery has narrowed again.
- Coronary bypass surgery may be performed in an emergency situation, e.g., after a heart attack.
Risks of Coronary Bypass Surgery:
As with any major surgery, Coronary Bypass Surgery has its own set of risks and complications either pre- or post-surgery.
Common complications are:
- Arrhythmia – irregular heart rhythm
- Kidney problems
- Memory loss – normally improves in 6 to 12 months
Serious complications could happen if a blood clot manages to break loose leading to a heart arrest or even suffering a stroke.
Individual patients have different risk levels depending on their health. A point to note is the risk level is considerably higher if Coronary Bypass Surgery is done during an emergency procedure, or if you have other medical conditions.
Surgery time will depend on the number of bypasses a patient requires, which would be anything between 3 to 6 hours under general anesthesia.
The procedure will start with the removal of a healthy vein, normally from the leg, to be used for the bypass or bypasses.
Then the surgeon will proceed to open up the rib cage. The heart is temporarily stopped and you will be connected to a heart-lung machine which will maintain blood and oxygen flowing all throughout the surgery.
The surgeon will attach the healthy vein above and below the blocked area of the artery, to enable the blood to avoid the blocked area and flow in a new route. The process is repeated on other blockages, if any.
The final part will be to successfully restore your heartbeat and disconnect you from the heart-lung machine.
You will stay sedated in the intensive care unit for a day or two, attached to a breathing tube until the surgeon determines the sedation can stop and you can breathe on your own.
Post-surgery rehabilitation will start after this, and you will be given an exercise program to help you recover and get back on your feet. Discharge should be within a week, barring complications.
You will need to go for regular post-surgical checkups and close monitoring by your surgeon.
Many coronary bypass patients live a healthy life for 10 to 15 years or even more, depending on individual health patterns. They will be on long-term medication and recommendations will be given for a change to a healthy lifestyle.
Do note that even with coronary bypass surgery and medication, it is possible for new blockages to occur. Take preventive measures by making radical changes to your lifestyle like:
- Regular exercise
- Manage your stress level
- Maintain a healthy weight with a healthy diet
- If you are smoker – stop smoking
We will end off here by reiterating as usual – the above is only a general explanation and view on coronary bypass surgery. Do not hesitate to contact your medical practitioner for proper consultation, if you suspect you may have a heart condition.
2nd June 21:20