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Heart Disease Health Center

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What Is Heart Bypass Surgery?

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Imagine you’re on a highway. An accident causes traffic to pile up ahead. Emergency crews redirect cars around the congestion. Finally, you’re able to get back on the road and the route is clear.

If you need heart bypass surgery, the procedure is pretty similar. A surgeon takes blood vessels from another part of your body to go around, or bypass, a blocked artery. The result is that more blood and oxygen can flow to your heart again.

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The Post-Quadruple-Bypass Workout

Lynn Swassing was just 48 years old, the mother of two sons in high school and one daughter in college, when she had a heart attack in 1987. She underwent quadruple bypass surgery and was hospitalized for nearly six weeks. Every single day, at some point, the hospital had an exercise specialist at the foot of my bed, she recalls. They told me, if you don't get active, you won't make it. No way,was Swassing's first thought. The full-time mom had never been on a treadmill in her life, and she...

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It can help lower your risk for a heart attack and other problems. Once you recover, you’ll feel better and be able to get back to your regular activities.

Bypass surgery is also known as coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG). It’s the most common type of open-heart surgery in the U.S. Most people have great results and live symptom-free for a decade or more.

Why Do I Need It?

Bypass surgery treats symptoms of coronary heart disease. That happens when a waxy substance called plaque builds up inside the arteries in your heart and blocks blood and oxygen from reaching it. You may feel things like:

Coronary heart disease can lead to a heart attack. It can cause a blood clot to form and cut off blood flow. Bypass surgery can give your ticker a big health boost.

How Does It Work?

A surgeon removes a blood vessel, called a graft, from another part of your body, like your chest, leg, or arm. He attaches one end of it to your aorta, a large artery that comes out of your heart. Then, he attaches the other end to an artery below the blockage.

The graft creates a new route for blood to travel to your ticker. If you have multiple blockages, your surgeon may do one or more bypass procedures during the same surgery.

You’ll be asleep the whole time, about 3 to 6 hours on average.

What Happens After Surgery?

You’ll wake up in an intensive care unit (ICU). You’ll have a tube in your mouth to help you breathe. You won’t be able to talk and will feel uncomfortable. Nurses will be there to help you. They’ll remove the tube after a few hours, when you can breathe on your own.

You’ll also be hooked up to machines that monitor your vital signs, like your heart rate and blood pressure, around the clock. You’ll stay in the ICU for a few days before being moved to a hospital room. You’ll stay there for about 3 to 5 days before you go home.

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