As with any surgical procedure, there are risks of infection and heavy bleeding. There also are risks associated with anesthesia. These can include adverse reactions to medication and breathing problems. Postoperative pneumonia and wound infection also are common complications arising from open-heart surgery.
How successful is bypass surgery? Can I expect to live a long life?
Studies have shown in 80 to 95 percent of patients, bypasses made with segments of the mammary artery still performed efficiently 10 years after surgery. Two-thirds to 75 percent of patients who received grafts from leg veins still had satisfactorily unrestricted blood flow after 10 years.
Remember that even if your graft becomes blocked, you may not need additional bypass surgery. However, you may be a candidate for balloon angioplasty and insertion of a stent. (See Angioplasty: A Patient Guide)
Where will the surgery take place, and how can I prepare for it?
The surgery will be performed in a hospital operating room.
Some individuals are unaware of the extent to which their arteries are clogged until they have a heart attack. In cases such as these, a cardiologist or emergency room doctor will probably quickly determine whether bypass surgery can be successful. There might be little time to discuss options or extensively educate you or your family.
Ideally, you have discussed your health history with a cardiologist. You may have been treated with cholesterol lowering or blood pressure-lowering medications for some time. However, because of chest pain or test results from a stress test, it is evident to your doctor that bypass surgery is a necessary step. If you need additional input from your doctor, or perhaps a second opinion, it is in your best interest to get it as quickly as possible. In most cases, advanced coronary artery disease should be treated as soon as possible, to avoid further damage to the heart.
How long is the surgery?
Typically, traditional bypass surgery takes between two and six hours, depending on the number of bypasses to be performed. Minimally invasive bypass surgery usually takes two to three hours.