Many patients with heart disease have serious blockages in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. When minimally invasive techniques, such as angioplasty, can’t be used to improve their conditions, patients may benefit from coronary artery bypass surgery.
Surgeons at GW Hospital use advanced strategies and techniques to perform bypass surgery, including conventional procedures using the heart-lung machine and newer “off-pump” techniques.
When performing traditional bypass surgery, surgeons make an incision down the center of the chest and separate the breastbone to reach the heart. The patient’s heart must be stopped during the procedure, so a heart-lung machine is used to pump blood throughout the body.
Surgeons then graft a section of a healthy blood vessel — usually from the leg — onto the affected vessel to reroute blood flow around the blockage. This procedure can restore blood flow to or “revascularize” the heart. It also may reduce chest pain and lower the risk of heart attack.
Surgeons at GW Hospital also employ newer procedures that allow them to perform bypass surgery without stopping the heart.
They can immobilize a section of the heart with specially designed stabilizers. The rest of the heart continues beating normally so a heart-lung machine isn’t used during the bypass procedure.
Patients who undergo off-pump procedures may have a reduced risk of developing some of the complications, such as swelling, clotting and neurological problems, that may be associated with the heart-lung machine.
Surgeons often can perform minimally invasive heart surgery when the patient needs a bypass for only one or two arteries.
Instead of making a large incision in the chest and dividing the breastbone, surgeons make a small incision directly over the artery to be bypassed. Next, they detach an artery from inside the chest and attach it to the clogged artery to bypass the blockage.