What do I need to know about coronary artery bypass surgery?

Possible Benefits and Risks of Coronary Artery Bypass SurgerySome of the benefits that you can get from coronary artery bypass surgery include:

  • longer life
  • relief from angina
  • more energy
  • less fatigue
  • increased ability to exercise and be active
  • less need for medicine to control angina symptoms

Possible risks of coronary artery bypass surgery include:


  • bleeding that requires additional surgery
  • blood clots
  • failure of major organs such as lungs, kidney, or liver
  • heart attack
  • infection
  • stroke
  • death

Coronary bypass surgery is also known as coronary artery bypass graft surgery. It may also be called CABG for short. You will hear people say these initials as cabbage. This procedure creates bypasses, which are like little detours, around the blocked arteries in your heart.

How can I know if I'm a good candidate for coronary bypass surgery?

Your doctor may recommend CABG if you have any of the following conditions:

  • blockages that can't be reached by angioplasty
  • severe blockages in the left main coronary artery
  • disease in several smaller vessels
  • angina caused by narrowing of 75% or more in two out of three coronary arteries
  • no angina, but a positive exercise stress test, thallium test, or cardiac catheterization
  • severe narrowing of only one coronary artery when there are other reasons to avoid angioplasty
  • symptoms that have not been relieved by angioplasty or medicine

It's OK to ask your doctor why CABG is recommended in your case.

How can I make an informed decision about coronary artery bypass surgery?

If your doctor recommends CABG, you will need to decide if you should have the operation. To make an informed decision, you should know:

  • what CABG does
  • how CABG is done
  • what you can expect in terms of risk and chances of success
  • what you can expect after surgery
  • if there are alternatives to surgery that may work for you
  • what you should ask your doctor before the surgery


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