Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG Surgery)

Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG surgery) is a surgical treatment for coronary artery disease (CAD), also called coronary heart disease. CABG is performed when there is a blockage in the coronary artery that cannot be successfully treated with medicine or a less invasive procedure, such as an angioplasty.

In CABG, a healthy artery or vein, taken from the legs, chest or forearm, is connected or grafted, to the blocked coronary artery. The grafted artery or vein bypasses the blocked portion of the coronary artery, creating a new passage for oxygen-rich blood to go around the blockage and into the heart.

Cardiac surgeons at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) Heart & Vascular Center have performed more than 10,000 CABG surgeries and now offer the full range of techniques — from complex conventional surgery to minimally invasive options — for coronary artery disease. Today, approximately 600 CABG surgeries are performed at BWH annually, exceeding the national average. This experience and their collaboration with a multidisciplinary team of specialists through the Structural Heart Disease Program enables our surgeons to handle the most complicated cases, with a range of treatment options that improve the lives of cardiac surgery patients throughout the world.

With 47,000 outpatient visits each year, the Heart & Vascular Center is one of the largest in the United States, treating over 7,000 inpatients and performing more than 8,000 procedures annually at our state-of-the-art Shapiro Cardiovascular Center.

Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG Surgery) Topics

Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting Procedures
  • Open Heart Surgery CABG surgery has been traditionally performed with the patient supported on a heart-lung machine that does the work of the heart and lungs. The breastbone is opened (sternotomy) to expose the heart. The heart is then stopped while the machine takes over pumping and oxygenating the blood. This is referred to as on-pump coronary artery bypass surgery.
  • Minimally Invasive Surgery Though on-pump surgery is still recommended for many patients, newer techniques now allow surgeons to operate without the use of the heart-lung machine.
  • Endoscopic vein harvesting is a minimally invasive technique in which an endoscope is used to locate blood vessels in the leg that will be used for bypassing the blocked coronary arteries. Veins are generally harvested from the inner thigh and calf areas of the legs. Two small incisions (2-3 cm) on the leg are made to harvest the vein with this approach. This results in less infection and less pain after surgery.

Learn more about the different types of coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG surgery).

Watch this video about coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG surgery).

Why Have Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG surgery)?

Coronary artery bypass grafting surgery is performed to treat a blockage or narrowing of one or more of the coronary arteries, restoring the blood supply to the heart muscle. It may be done to correct past angioplasty or stenting procedures that were not successful. CABG is also performed in emergency situations, such as a heart attack.

Symptoms of coronary artery disease vary from person to person but may include:

  • Chest pain
  • Chest pressure or discomfort
  • Jaw pain
  • Back pain
  • Arm pain
  • Fatigue
  • Palpitations
  • Abnormal heart rhythms 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Indigestion
  • Nausea or vomiting
What You Should Expect

The Heart & Vascular Center is located in the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center, across the street from BWH’s main 75 Francis Street entrance. The Heart & Vascular Center brings together the full range of services in one location, fostering seamless and coordinated care for all cardiovascular patients.

Prior to the procedure, you will be scheduled for a visit to the Watkins Clinic in the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center for preoperative information and tests.

The day of the procedure, your care will be provided by surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses who specialize in coronary artery disease. The Heart & Vascular Center is home to one of the most advanced hybrid operating rooms in the country. After surgery, you will recover in the post-surgical care unit where you will receive comprehensive care by an experienced surgical and nursing staff.

During your procedure, family and friends can wait in the Shapiro Family Center where staff members will provide surgery updates.

Multidisciplinary Care

In addition to our cardiac surgeons, patients also benefit from the teamwork of medical cardiologists, interventional cardiologists, cardiovascular imaging experts and radiologists, and anesthesiologists, all experts in cardiovascular disease. They work alongside nurses, physician assistants, physical therapists, dietitians and social workers to achieve outstanding outcomes for our patients.

Resources

Learn more about coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG surgery) in our health library.

Visit the Kessler Health Education Library in the Bretholtz Center for Patients and Families.

Access a complete directory of patient and family services.

Learn about the Watkins Clinic in the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center.

Download Cardiac Surgery: A Guide for Patients in English or in Spanish.

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