Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Heart Disease Health Center

Font Size

'On-Pump' Heart Surgery Gets High Marks

Study Prompts New Debate Over Bypass Surgery With and Without Heart-Lung Machine
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 4, 2009 -- Coronary artery bypass surgery performed on a beating heart without the aid of a heart-lung machine proved no more effective than traditional bypass surgery, a study comparing the two procedures shows.

Roughly 1,000 patients treated at 18 Veterans Administration hospitals across the country received beating heart, or "off-pump" bypass surgery. A similar number received "on-pump" surgery, performed while their hearts were stopped.

The two treatment groups had similar outcomes with regard to survival and medical complications within 30 days of surgery.

But composite outcomes a year later appeared to favor the on-pump procedure; the off-pump surgery offered no advantage in terms of neurological outcomes, such as memory loss and concentration.

The study appears in the Nov. 5 issue of TheNew England Journal of Medicine.

These days, about one in five coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) patients in the U.S. get the off-pump surgery.

Cardiovascular surgeon and study co-researcher Frederick Grover, MD, of the University of Colorado, Denver, tells WebMD that he doesn't expect this number to drop drastically as a result of the findings.

"I would expect surgeons who are expert at performing the [off-pump] procedure and who are getting excellent results to keep doing it," he says. "But I imagine that at some institutions, fewer of them will be done."

Beating Heart Bypass

First performed a little over a decade ago, the beating-heart CABG procedure became popular because it was widely believed to be associated with fewer postsurgical physical and cognitive complications.

With CABG, a blockage or area of severe narrowing in a coronary artery is bypassed with a piece of vein or artery called a graft. The graft is connected above and below the blocked area so that blood flow is restored.

Usually patients needing bypass surgery will have more than one blood vessel that requires a graft. The process of re-establishing blood flow in blocked or severely narrowed vessels is referred to as revascularization.

Bypass has been linked to complications such as memory loss, muddled thinking, and concentration problems lasting weeks to months after surgery. Placement on a heart-lung machine has been implicated, but not proven, as a possible contributor to this cognitive impairment.

Today on WebMD

x-ray of human heart
A visual guide.
atrial fibrillation
Symptoms and causes.
heart rate graph
10 things to never do.
heart rate
Get the facts.
empty football helmet
red wine
eating blueberries
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Inside A Heart Attack
Omega 3 Sources
Salt Shockers
lowering blood pressure