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What is Bypass Surgery?

Posted Aug 24 2008 1:49pm
ANNOUNCER: A coronary bypass is a type of heart surgery that re-routes blood vessels around heart arteries that have become clogged with cholesterol build-up.

LAWRENCE I. BONCHEK, MD: Bypass surgery is done in order to route blood around obstructions in the coronary arteries, which are the arteries that supply blood to the heart. They're actually very small arteries, so it doesn't take a lot of cholesterol buildup in the wall of the artery to block an artery that size.

Surgeons will take a healthy blood vessel like an artery from the chest wall or a vein from the leg, and then connect the blood vessel above and below the blockage to bypass it.

LAWRENCE I. BONCHEK, MD: There are two major ways that bypass surgery is done nowadays, and people will hear the terms off-pump and on-pump bypass surgery. Traditionally, bypass surgery has always been done with a heart-lung machine so that the heart could be stopped and the lungs are not being inflated, and the heart-lung machine is doing those functions while the heart is absolutely stationary to allow very precise, meticulous sewing while the bypasses are being attached.

But in recent years, with advances in technology, there have been pieces of equipment developed that allow you to stabilize a small area of the heart that you're working on, and to do the bypass operation without the heart-lung machine. And that's known as off-pump bypass surgery.

ANNOUNCER: Lifestyle modifications are important after surgery so that the new blood vessels don't become blocked as well.

LAWRENCE I. BONCHEK, MD: The most common lifestyle modifications are correcting all the bad things that people have been doing beforehand, such as not smoking. They should lose weight. They should watch the salt in their diet. They should eat a healthier diet.

ANNOUNCER: Bypass surgery is still a major procedure, but most people can be fully recovered and active in as little as two months.

LAWRENCE I. BONCHEK, MD: My advice to anyone who has had bypass surgery is to enjoy life, because that's the purpose of having the surgery so that they can get back to full and normal activity.

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