What is bypass surgery?

Bypass surgery is a surgical technique used to try to restore blood flow to the heart. There are two types: with extracorporeal circulation and without extracorporeal circulation.

Why is it performed?

Bypass surgery is performed as a last resort in the treatment of coronary artery disease. After making lifestyle changes, taking certain medications and performing an angioplasty, consisting of the opening of the arteries.

By performing a bypass, a new way for the blood to reach the heart is achieved, thus avoiding the existing blockage. It is possible that, depending on the severity of the case, the patient may require more than one bypass.

What does it consist of?

The off-pump bypass consists of connecting a part of the bypass or graft, a piece of healthy artery or vein that the surgeon extracts from another part of the body, above and below the obstruction of the artery, restoring blood flow to the heart muscle. In this way, bypass surgery will prevent the patient from suffering side effects and improve his or her recovery. By contrast, surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass is performed with the heart stopped while a machine takes over its function and that of the lungs thanks to a pump and an oxygenator.

Preparation for the bypass

In the days prior to the operation, the patient must be very attentive to the presence of any symptom or change in his organism, even simple colds or flu. If any type of infection is present, it can affect recovery. Ingested medications should also be taken into account and, if the specialist deems it convenient, those that may be detrimental to the operation should be withdrawn. It is possible that before the surgery an electrocardiogram, blood and urine tests and/or a thorax x-ray should be performed. Hours before, it is advisable to bathe to reduce the amount of microbes on the skin and to remain fasting so that the anesthesia is more effective.

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Care after the operation

The measures to be taken into account after surgery of this type will be those that affect cardiac rehabilitation, that is to say, changes in lifestyle such as maintaining a balanced diet, exercising, quitting smoking if necessary, keeping a healthy weight and knowing how to control stress. As bypass is a further step in the treatment of heart disease, medications such as cholesterol-lowering or antiplatelet drugs are commonly prescribed.