Bypass surgery is a laborious open heart procedure that restores the blocked blood flow to the heart. The risk of heart attacks is thus reduced and life expectancy increased.

What is a bypass operation?

The bypass operation is a complex open-heart surgery that restores the blocked blood flow to the heart.

A bypass operation is an intervention on the coronary artery to restore blood flow to the heart muscle. Here, blood is collected through a side channel at the clogged point of the artery and forwarded to the heart.

The surgeon uses a piece of vein from the patient's leg, arm, chest or abdomen, connecting it to the heart and artery, bypassing the blockage of blood flow. After the bypass operation, the normal functioning of the heart muscle is again ensured. It is one of several ways to treat and cure heart disease.

Bypass surgery reduces the symptoms of clogged arteries. These include pain and puncture in the chest and upper body, as well as shortness of breath and reduced stress capacity. Bypass surgery reduces the risk of further heart disease and death from a heart attack.

Function, effect & goals

While bypass surgery can improve the direct symptoms of heart artery disease, it does not resolve the cause of the disease. A common cause of the emergence of an artery blockage is an unhealthy lifestyle. After a bypass operation, a changeover is essential to reduce the risk of reoccurring problems.

Before the operation, the doctor will give several instructions regarding activities, diet and medication. A series of precautionary examinations are carried out, for example x-rays, blood tests, electrocardiograms, coronary angiography (an x-ray showing the tributaries to the heart). Most patients are hospitalized on the morning of bypass surgery.

In some cases, a bypass operation is also performed as emergency surgery after a heart attack. The patient should consider for the weeks following the surgery that it will take about 6 weeks to get back to work, drive or perform everyday tasks. The bypass operation usually takes three to six hours and requires general anesthesia. The length depends on the number of bypasses that need to be placed.

Most bypass operations are performed over a long incision in the chest while ensuring blood flow through a heart-lung machine. At the breastbone the chest is opened and the heart is exposed. Subsequently, the muscle is temporarily stopped and the heart-lung machine takes over the supply. With incisions on the arm, leg or chest, veins are removed and connected to the affected areas of the arteries.

In some cases, bypass surgery is also performed on the beating heart, or without thoracic opening, a small incision, and the use of computer-controlled robotic arms. The bypass operation is a laborious procedure and then the patient will spend another 2 days under supervision in intensive care. The breathing tube will be connected for a few hours, which limits the communication.

After one week, the patient can leave the hospital, but it will be several weeks before he can get back to work or only do small physical tasks.

Risks & Dangers

Since bypass surgery is performed in the open heart in most cases, a number of complications may occur during the procedure. These include: bleeding, cardiac arrhythmia.

Among the less common problems include: infection of the surgical wound; Memory loss or thinking problems (these should subside 12 hours after the bypass operation); Renal failure; Stroke; Heart attack (if a blood clot dissolves shortly after surgery).

The likelihood of these complications depends on the physical constitution of the patient before the bypass operation. In a discussion with the doctor, the individual risks should be discussed with the patient.

If the bypass operation is planned for a long time and well prepared, the risk for enumerated problems should be low. Surgery is much more risky with this procedure or if the patient has other medicines in their blood. Also, additional disorders such as emphysema, kidney disease, diabetes or blocked arteries in the legs increase the risk of complications.

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