When do people need a heart bypass?
Heart bypass surgery, also known as coronary artery bypass grafting or CABG, is carried out by cardiac surgeons in the case of severe coronary disease. This is when plaques – fatty deposits that build up over time in the walls of the arteries – eventually clog up the hardened arteries and severely restrict the flow of blood to the heart muscle. You may have been alerted to the damage by angina pains or through heart screening.
How does CABG work?
The surgeon removes healthy blood vessels from another part of your body – often the leg veins or the internal mammary artery (which supplies the chest wall and breasts) – and sews them around the affected artery. This procedure bypasses the blocked part of the coronary artery, and restores the normal flow of blood to the heart muscle.
Heart bypass surgery doesn't cure heart disease, but it relieves symptoms such as angina. And it lowers the risk of a heart attack, particularly in patients with diabetes. Most importantly, it lets you get on with your normal life again.
A typical CABG process
Dr Lim Yeong Phang, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, has carried out numerous different heart operations. He specialises in minimally invasive heart bypass surgery, which uses small cuts, instead of dividing the sternum to reach the heart.
Cardiac surgeons perform heart bypass surgery, whereas cardiologists carry out procedures, such as heart stenting (angioplasty). "With hybrid operating rooms, we can also do hybrid heart bypass procedures," says Dr Lim. In this procedure, both a heart stenting procedure and a non-sternotomy heart bypass (where the sternum is not cut open and cracked) are performed in the same setting.
He explains, "With newer techniques, the average operating time for a heart bypass is around 2 – 3 hours, and the post-operative hospital stay is shortened to 3 – 5 days. With minimally invasive techniques, patients are up and about walking faster with minimal discomfort and hence return to work much sooner. Faster ambulation also means fewer in-hospital complications such as infections. In a non-sternotomy heart bypass, you can return to work in about two to three weeks on average."
Tips to remember
- Not all heart disease results in the need for heart bypass surgery. The earlier you have your heart screened, the better chance you have of needing less invasive treatment for any problems.
- If you do need heart bypass surgery (CABG), you might like to know that the initials are pronounced as 'cabbage' by hospital staff. Doesn't that sound more comforting?
Find out more information about other heart treatments or some of the medical procedures available should you need to undergo heart treatment. With the correct insurance coverage, your bill size can be better gauged and managed, while Mount Elizabeth Hospitals can assist with all Medisave, MediShield Life and Integrated Shield Plan claims.