Coronary Artery Bypass Graft

This page will give you information about a coronary artery bypass graft. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

What is coronary artery disease?

Coronary artery disease is a narrowing of the coronary arteries (blood vessels that supply the heart muscle with oxygen). It reduces the blood supply to the heart muscle, leading to angina and heart attacks.

What are the benefits of surgery?

The main benefit is to reduce angina. Surgery may also improve your breathlessness and how well your heart works. Sometimes surgery can reduce the risk of you having a heart attack.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

For some people it may be possible to have a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) to widen or unblock an artery using a small inflatable balloon. Drugs can be used to relieve the symptoms of coronary artery disease.

What does the operation involve?

The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes about three hours.

Your surgeon will make a cut down the front of your chest, through the breastbone. You will be connected to a heart-lung machine, which allows the heart to be still while the bypasses are performed.

Your surgeon will use a length of blood vessel, taken from elsewhere in your body, to bypass the blockage and so restore a good blood supply to your heart (see figure 1).

Coronary Bypass Graft

Figure 1: Coronary Artery Bypass

What complications can happen?

General complications of any operation

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Unsightly scarring
  • Blood clots

Specific complications of this operation

  • Stroke
  • Infection in the surgical site (wound)
  • Heart attack
  • Death

How soon will I recover?

After the operation you will be transferred to the cardiac intensive-care unit or high-dependency unit, usually for 24 hours, and then to the ward.

You should be able to go home after seven to ten days.

The healthcare team will tell you when you can return to normal activities.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, you should ask a member of the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

You should make a good recovery, with relief of angina. However, symptoms can sometimes come back.


Coronary artery disease can cause pain, shortness of breath and heart attacks. A coronary artery bypass graft can relieve your pain and may help you to live longer.


Author: Mr Edward Black MBBS FRCS (CTh)

Illustrations: Medical Illustration Copyright © 2011 Nucleus Medical Art. All rights reserved.

This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.


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