|  Find a Doctor   |  Getting to NUHCS   | Appointment   | Contact Us   | Newsroom  |  Make a Gift  | About NUHS  | Protecting Your Data

Home > Our Services > Conditions and Treatments > Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery

Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery





Coronary arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients to the heart.


Coronary artery bypass surgery is an operation that is carried out to improve the flow of blood to the heart muscle in people with coronary heart disease where the coronary arteries are severely narrowed or blocked.


The operation involves taking blood vessels from other parts of the body and attaching them to the coronary arteries past the blockage. The blood is then able to flow around, or "bypass" the blockage. If more than one artery is blocked, you may need more than one bypass


Back to Top




Why do you need this surgery?


You will require a Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery when the doctors determine that the blockage is too difficult to access by Angioplasty, or if the blockage is severe and occurs in several major vessels.


Back to Top



How should you prepare for the surgery?


  • Stop smoking if you are a smoker. You should stop smoking because smoking is a risk factor for coronary heart disease. Your heart disease will not improve if you continue to smoke. It also increases your risk of complications from the surgery.
  • Talk to your doctor or other people who have had the surgery. Knowing what to expect may help reduce your anxiety before the operation.
  • Plan for your care and recovery after the operation. Allow for time to rest, and try to get help for you day-to-day activities.



What happens during the surgery?


  • Coronary artery bypass surgery is performed by a team of surgeons
  • You will be under general anaesthesia throughout the procedure
  • The operation takes three to six hours, depending on how many blood vessels need to be bypassed
  • A cut is made in the centre of the chest at the breastbone to allow the surgeon to see the heart
  • Another cut may be made in your leg to remove a vein that will be put in your chest. (In addition, an artery in the chest, called the internal mammary artery, can be used)
  • If a vein is used for the bypass, one end of it is sewn into the aorta (the main artery from the heart to the body). The other end is sewn into the area beyond the blockage in the coronary artery
  • In the case of the mammary artery, the lower end of this artery is cut and attached to the coronary artery beyond the blockage
  • In either case, the blood then used the new vessels as a detour to bypass the blockage
  • When the surgery is finished, your chest is closed with stitches



What are the potential risks or complications?


  • If you are healthy and under the age of 60, your risk of serious complications is 1%. If you are older, and especially if you are having chest pain, your risk of serious complications is 2% to 10%
  • There are always some risks when you have general anaesthesia. Discuss these risks with your doctor
  • There is a risk of infection or bleeding from this operation
  • New blockages can develop in the bypassed vessels. This might require another heart catheterisation and surgery. So it is important to make changes to your lifestyle to decrease the risk of blockage
  • There is a risk of stroke during and after the operation


What happens after the surgery?


  • You will go to the intensive care unit (ICU) where you will stay for several days or as long as you need for observation. An electrocardiogram (ECG) monitor will record the rhythm of your heart continuously
  • You will have respiratory therapy to prevent any lung problems, such as a collapsed lung, infection, or pneumonia. A nurse or therapist will assess you with breathing exercises every few hours. Ask for pain medication if you need it.
  • You will have physical therapy, which includes walking around the hospital and other strengthening activities. You will learn how to move your upper arms without hurting your breastbone.
  • You will learn how to live a healthy lifestyle, such as choosing foods that are low in fat, cholesterol and salt, exercising regularly and not smoking



Home care


  • Have a relative or friend to pick you up on the day of your discharge
  • You will not need nursing at home, but it will be good to have someone help you with your shopping and also to support you for the first 10 days or so
  • Follow up with the pre-arranged check up at the hospital with your doctor
  • Full recovery should take about 3 months


When should you call the doctor?


Call the doctor right away if:

  • You develop a fever
  • You become short of breath
  • You have chest pain that becomes worse despite taking painkillers


Call the doctor during office hours if:

  • You have questions about the operation or its result
  • You want to make another appointment

 Back to Top