Are there alternatives to CABG?

Healthcare professionals are studying new, less invasive forms of this surgery. One option is known as minimally invasive heart surgery. Another form is called limited-access coronary artery surgery. Like CABG, these procedures reroute, or bypass, clogged arteries. By doing so, they improve blood flow to the heart. They are less invasive and less painful. Plus, they require a shorter hospital stay than traditional CABG. At this time, this kind of operation is right for only about 1 in 10 patients who have heart disease and need surgery. The American Heart Association believes these new procedures are promising. But it cautions that complications may still cause you to need open-heart surgery. So the new procedures require more study.

The following paragraphs tell more about the alternatives to CABG.


  • Port-access coronary artery bypass, also called PACAB or PortCAB. In this surgery, the surgical team stops the heart. Blood is pumped through a heart-lung bypass machine. However, instead of making a large incision down the chest as in traditional CABG, the surgeon makes only small incisions into the chest. These are called ports. Your surgeon can pass surgical tools through these ports. As with traditional CABG, chest arteries or leg veins are attached to the heart, bypassing your blockages. Instead of being able to see these areas directly, the surgeon uses special cameras, which are inserted through the small catheters. He or she views the procedure on video monitors.
  • Minimally invasive coronary artery bypass, known as MIDCAB. Surgeons use this procedure when you need a bypass on only one or two clogged arteries. This surgery doesn't use the heart-lung machine. Instead, the heart continues to beat on its own throughout the operation. The surgeon makes small holes in the chest called ports. Next, he or she makes an incision directly over the coronary artery that needs to be bypassed. The surgeon then detaches an artery from the chest wall and reattaches it around the clog in the artery. This creates a new path, or bypass, through which the blood can flow.

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