Coronary bypass surgery
Coronary or heart bypass surgery can relieve
chest pain. In the operation, your surgeon uses a blood vessel from
your leg, arm or chest to bypass a narrowed section of a
Why might I need bypass surgery?
If you’ve been diagnosed with coronary heart disease or angina, your doctor might suggest a bypass
operation to help improve the blood supply to your heart
muscle. This will help to relieve angina symptoms and improve your
quality of life.
What happens during bypass surgery?
A diagram of your heart after bypass surgery.
Your arteries get
narrowed when fatty deposits
build up on the inner
walls of your arteries. The aim of coronary bypass surgery is to
bypass – or ‘get around’ - the narrowed sections of your coronary
The surgeon does this by grafting a blood vessel between the
aorta (the main blood vessel leaving the heart) and a point along
the coronary artery, past the narrowed area.
In most cases, at least one of the blood vessels used as a
bypass graft is an artery from your chest called the
internal mammary artery.
Blood vessels such as a vein from your legs and sometimes an
artery from your arms are used for the other grafts. You can have
one graft, but it’s more common to have two, three or four (often
called double, triple or quadruple bypasses).
Surgeons usually make a cut down the middle of the breastbone to
reach your heart. But in some operations the breastbone doesn't
need to be cut. This is called minimally invasive
If your surgeon needs to cut your breastbone,
you will have a long wound down the middle of your chest. If you
have had a vein graft from your leg or an artery graft from your
arm, you will have a smaller wound in these places too.
A heart-lung bypass machine circulates the
blood around your body while the surgeon operates on your heart,
but some surgeons carry out coronary bypass operations without this
machine. This is called beating heart surgery.
After your operation you will be moved to
intensive care for close monitoring until you wake up. Once your
condition is stable, you will be moved to the high dependency unit
or the cardiac ward.
Most people get excellent relief from angina and improved
quality of life.
The risks are different from person to person, depending on the
severity of heart disease, type of operation, age, and current
state of health.
Out of bed in a day or two, return home after a week, full
recovery after two or three months, depending on your fitness, age
and how severe the problem was.
What should I do when I go home?
In many hospitals a member of the cardiac
rehabilitation team will see you on the ward to give you
information about your condition and the treatment you have
They will talk to you about making
lifestyle changes and how to reduce your risk factors (the things
that increase your risk of heart disease) to help protect your
heart in the future. You can also ask the rehabilitation staff any
questions about your recovery.
Surgery is not a cure - so it's important to look after your
heart health long term.
Who can I talk to?
As the day of your surgery gets closer, you may be feeling a
whole range of emotions. You may feel anxious, afraid, angry,
worried about the future or glad that you are about to have
treatment. It’s natural to have these sort of feelings and it's
important to talk about them with your partner, a friend, relative
or healthcare professional.
If you have any questions, talk to your doctor or call
HelpLine on 0300 330 3311.