Coronary Heart Disease

What Is Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting?

Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG)

Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG), also called heart bypass surgery, is a medical procedure to improve blood flow to the heart. It may be needed when the arteries supplying blood to the heart, called coronary arteries, are narrowed or blocked.

Your doctor may recommend the surgery to lower your risk of a heart attack if you have coronary heart disease, or in an emergency to treat a severe heart attack.

CABG uses healthy blood vessels from another part of the body and connects them to blood vessels above and below the blocked artery. This creates a new route for blood to flow that bypasses the narrowed or blocked coronary arteries. The blood vessels are usually arteries from the arm or chest, or veins from the legs.


In traditional “open heart” CABG, your heart is stopped, and a heart-lung bypass machine takes over the job of pumping blood throughout the body. This is still the most common approach, but other techniques, called “off-pump” procedures because the heart does not need to be stopped, may be an option for some people.

Who Needs It?

CABG is used to treat obstructive coronary heart disease, a type of heart disease that occurs when plaque builds up in the coronary arteries that supply the heart with oxygen-rich blood.

Your heart care team will work with you to decide if CABG is right for you. Your team may include your heart doctor, called a cardiologist, and a cardiothoracic surgeon, who specializes in heart, lung, and chest surgeries.

Surgery is not always the best option for everyone. Depending on your overall health and other conditions, your care team may recommend an alternative procedure called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), which may include placing a stent in the artery. This procedure is also known as coronary angioplasty.

You may benefit from CABG if you have:

  • Coronary heart disease with angina (chest pain) that has not gone away with medicine, or a history of cardiac arrest related to an irregular heartbeat
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  • Diabetes
  • Heart attack due to coronary artery disease that cannot be treated properly with PCI
  • Multiple blocked coronary arteries or large amounts of plaque in the left main coronary artery that would be difficult to treat with PCI
  • Serious heart failure that affects your heart’s ability to pump blood



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