Heart bypass surgery, called PAC, is a type of cardiothoracic surgery, or thoracic surgery, that prevents blood flow around blocked arteries. This improves the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart. The coronary arteries, which are the arteries through which blood circulates to the heart, can sometimes be blocked by the build-up of cholesterol or fat. This blockage slows or stops blood flow to the heart, which in turn can lead to chest pain or even a heart attack. The goal of heart bypass surgery is to increase blood flow to the heart to restore optimal heart function.
The surgeon takes a piece of a blood vessel in the patient’s chest or leg and grafts it into the aorta, the artery leaving the heart, then grafts the other end into the coronary artery below the block, creating thus a diversion around the arterial blockage. The number of leads (single, double, triple, quadruple) refers to the number of coronary arteries avoided during the operation, which depends on the number of blocked coronary arteries. Triple bypass surgery in Illinois means three coronary arteries are avoided. In some bypass surgery, Heart-Lung Machines are used to maintain the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart during the procedure.
When the surgery is complete, the patient is placed in the intensive care unit so that the heart rate and blood pressure can be continuously monitored for about a day. A drug that regulates blood pressure and circulation is given intravenously and a breathing tube can be used until the patient can breathe on their own. The patient may feel disoriented and groggy upon awakening. Areas, where incisions have been made, can be painful, so pain relievers can be given if needed.
In addition, some patients suffer from fatigue, depression, and insomnia. In most cases, these side effects go away within a month or two. Patients are usually placed in cardiac rehabilitation programs under the supervision of a physician. These programs teach exercise, diet, and stress management skills. Patients who are recovering from heart bypass surgery are encouraged to walk and be physically active, as well as to eat less cholesterol and fat, to resume a normal lifestyle as soon as possible.
Modern cardiothoracic surgery has benefited greatly from the introduction of minimally invasive robotic bypass surgery using cardiopulmonary bypass machines. This new technique uses much smaller incisions than traditional methods, resulting in faster healing, fewer side effects, and a shorter hospital stay.