Open Heart Surgery/CABG/Coronary Artery Bypass Graft
Open heart surgery is any surgery in which the chest is opened
and surgery is performed on the heart muscle, valves, arteries or
other heart structures. The term "open" refers to the chest, not
the heart itself. The heart may or may not be opened, depending
on the type of surgery.
Heart bypass surgery creates a new route, called a bypass, for
blood and oxygen to reach the heart. It is done to fix problems
caused by coronary artery disease, in which the arteries that
lead to the heart are partly or totally blocked. A heart-lung
machine is usually used during the surgery to provide oxygen-rich
blood to the brain and other vital organs.
The definition of open-heart surgery has become confusing because
of new procedures being performed on the heart through smaller
incisions. Some new surgical procedures are done with the heart
The procedure involves general anesthesia so that the patient is
unconscious and unable to feel pain.
The surgeon makes a 10-inch incision in the middle of the chest.
The breastbone is then separated to create an opening that allows
the surgeon to see the heart and aorta.
Most people who have coronary bypass surgery are connected to a
heart-lung bypass machine, or bypass pump. This machine does the
work of the heart while the heart is stopped for the surgery. The
machine adds oxygen to the blood and circulates blood through the
A newer method does not use the heart-lung bypass machine. The
bypass is created while the heart is still beating. This is
called off-pump coronary artery bypass, or OPCAB. This method may
be used for patients who could have problems caused by being on
the heart-lung machine.
During this surgery, the surgeon takes a vein or artery from
another part of the body and uses it to create a detour (or
graft) around the blocked area in the artery.
After the graft has been created, the breastbone will be
reconnected with wire, and the incision will be sewn closed. The
wire will remain inside the patient.
- Blood clots in the legs that may travel to the lungs
- Breathing problems
- Infection in the lungs, urinary tract and chest
- Blood loss
- Heart attack or stroke
- Sternal (chest) wound infection, which is more likely to
occur in people who are obese, have diabetes, or have already had
- Post-pericardiotomy syndrome, which is a low-grade fever and
chest pain. It could last up to six months
- Some people report memory loss and loss of mental clarity, or
- Heart rhythm problems
After the operation, the patient will spend five to seven days in
the hospital. The first few hours will be in an intensive care
unit (ICU). It takes four to six weeks to start feeling better
Texas Health is committed to providing quality care to heart
and vascular patients throughout North Texas and beyond. While
various technologies and services are discussed here, not all of
our hospitals offer every treatment and diagnostic technology
highlighted. Call 1-877-THR-WELL to learn more about heart and
vascular services at a Texas Health hospital near you.