anesthesia before the surgery that will make you
sleep. In most cases, bypass surgery is open-chest surgery. During the surgery,
your chest will be open and your heart exposed. The surgeon makes a large cut,
or incision, in the middle or side of your chest. He or she may cut through your breastbone and
spread apart your rib cage.
The surgeon removes a healthy blood
vessel—often from the leg—and attaches (grafts) it to the narrowed or blocked artery. The
new blood vessel bypasses the affected artery to increase blood flow to the
heart. You may need just one bypass graft, or you may need more. Some people
have as many as two, three, or even four (double, triple, or quadruple bypass
surgery). How many grafts you need depends on how many arteries are affected and
When the surgery is complete, the doctor may use wire to
put your rib cage back together and stitches to close the incision. The surgery
can take 3 to 6 hours. You will stay in the hospital at least 3 to 8 days after
the surgery. It can take 4 to 6 weeks to recover at home. Most people are able
to return to work within 1 to 2 months after surgery.
After your surgery, your doctor may suggest that you attend a
cardiac rehabilitation (rehab) program to help you
recover. Cardiac rehab can also help you make lifestyle changes,
such as eating healthy and being more active.
Lifestyle changes and medicines
The success of bypass surgery also depends on you.
You can do things that can help you stay healthy and prevent problems. You will take medicines, and you may need to make lifestyle changes. These things help your bypass grafts last and
stay open longer.
If you smoke and don't quit, you won't get the most benefit from bypass
surgery. You may need to make some other big changes, like eating right,
getting regular exercise, and losing weight. A cardiac rehab program can help you make these lifestyle changes.
You will likely take medicines that prevent blood clots, lower cholesterol, and manage blood pressure. Along with lifestyle changes, these medicines can help you get the
most benefit from bypass surgery.
Bypass surgery is not a cure
for heart disease. That's why medicine and lifestyle changes are so important. Without them, you
raise your risk of getting new places in your arteries that are narrowed or blocked. If this happens, you may need another surgery.