Heart Bypass Surgery (Coronary Artery Bypass Graft)

Heart bypass surgery, also called coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) or “cabbage,” is a surgical procedure used to create conduits for blood to bypass the clogged coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle.

The obstruction in these arteries is usually caused by atherosclerosis, a buildup of fat or cholesterol known as plaque. Heart bypass surgery is used to treat coronary artery disease and angina, but is not necessarily a cure.

Heart Bypass Surgery Pre-Operative Details

Your surgeon will give specific instructions before heart bypass surgery, including risks such as bleeding, infection, or adverse reaction to anesthesia. Please be sure to contact your insurance company for coverage.

You will also meet with the anesthesiologist prior to the surgery to go over your medical history. Please do not eat after midnight the night before your surgery.

On the day of surgery, you will arrive at the hospital, get registered, and change into a hospital gown. A nurse will then review your chart to make sure there are no problems.

The anesthesiologist will then start an IV and you will be taken to the operating room, where the surgeon will verify your name and procedure before any medication is given. Once you are under anesthesia, surgery will begin.

Heart Bypass Surgery Operative Details

The UT Southwestern Medical Center surgeon will need to remove one or more veins from another part of your body to use on the heart.

These vessels are usually taken from the leg (saphenous vein) or arm (axillary vein) either by direct dissection, through a large incision, or endoscopically, using tiny incisions and a camera. The surgeon will then open your chest through the breastbone.

Upon reaching the heart, the surgeon has two options: either stop your heart (on-pump) or leave your heart beating (off-pump). If the surgeon decides to stop your heart, a cardiopulmonary bypass (pump) will be attached, allowing blood to be pumped through your body without using the heart and lungs.

The surgeon will then attach, or graft, the veins in front and behind the clotted area of the coronary arteries. Once complete, the chest will be closed. If you are on cardiopulmonary bypass, the surgeon will remove the bypass and restart your heart. The breastbone will be closed using wires, and the skin will be closed using stitches.

Heart Bypass Surgery Post-Operative Details

After heart bypass surgery, you will be taken to the intensive care unit and monitored. Pain is likely, so you will be given pain medication appropriately. You may also be on a respirator for up to a day to help with breathing. It’s important to keep the incision areas clean and dry.

The length of your hospital stay depends on how quickly you’re able to recover and perform some physical activity. Please contact your doctor immediately if you experience fevers, severe pain, redness, swelling, warmth where the incisions were made, or drainage from the incisions. Your surgeon will give specific instructions about recovery time.

Request an Appointment

To schedule an appointment with a heart bypass surgery expert at UT Southwestern's facilities in Dallas or for more information about our services, request an appointment or call 214-645-8300.