Before your surgery, you will get general anesthesia. You will be asleep (unconscious) and pain-free during surgery.
Once you are unconscious, the heart surgeon will make an 8 to 10-inch surgical cut in the middle of your chest. Your breastbone will be separated to create an opening. This allows your surgeon to see your heart and aorta, the main blood vessel leading from the heart to the rest of your body.
Most people who have coronary bypass surgery are connected to a heart-lung bypass machine, or bypass pump.
- Your heart is stopped while you are connected to this machine.
- This machine does the work of your heart and lungs while your heart is stopped for the surgery. The machine adds oxygen to your blood, moves blood through your body, and removes carbon dioxide.
Another type of bypass surgery does not use the heart-lung bypass machine. The procedure is done while your heart is still beating. This is called off-pump coronary artery bypass, or OPCAB.
To create the bypass graft:
- The doctor will take a vein or artery from another part of your body and use it to make a detour (or graft) around the blocked area in your artery. Your doctor may use a vein, called the saphenous vein, from your leg.
- To reach this vein, a surgical cut will be made along the inside of your leg, between your ankle and groin. One end of the graft will be sewn to your coronary artery. The other end will be sewn to an opening made in your aorta.
- A blood vessel in your chest, called the internal mammary artery (IMA), can also be used as the graft. One end of this artery is already connected to a branch of your aorta. The other end is attached to your coronary artery.
- Other arteries can also be used for grafts in bypass surgery. The most common one is the radial artery in your wrist.
After the graft has been created, your breastbone will be closed with wires. These wires stay inside you. The surgical cut will be closed with stitches.
This surgery can take 4 to 6 hours. After the surgery, you will be taken to the intensive care unit.