Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery is a major heart operation performed on more than a half-million people each year. This procedure uses blood vessels from the patient’s chest or leg to go around or “bypass” clogged coronary (heart) arteries. One end of a vessel is attached to the aorta (the large artery that carries blood from the heart), and the other end is attached to the coronary artery below the point at which it’s blocked. The new channel allows blood to flow to the heart.
Traditional CABG surgery requires a large incision dividing the breastbone and use of the heart-lung machine. Recovery time is approximately four to eight weeks after surgery.
Washington University heart surgeons use evidence-supported practices to reduce major complications such as wound infections, arrhythmias, hemorrhage and stroke during or shortly after a CABG operation. They also take other proven steps to optimize CABG outcomes including:
- An active program of physical rehabilitation starting the first day after surgery
- Encouragement of smoking cessation
- Evidence-supported use of medications such as aspirin within 48 hours of surgery; statin drugs to control cholesterol; and long-term use of beta-blockers (drugs that slow heart rate and lower high blood pressure) and ACE inhibitors (drugs that also control blood pressure)
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