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Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery

Blood travels into the heart through arteries.  Through diet, age, and genetics, arteries can become narrower than they should be because of plaque, a sticky substance that builds up over time. When plaque loosens and breaks off, a blood clot forms, which can block blood flow to your heart, resulting in chest pain or heart attack. One way to restore normal blood flow to the heart  is through an operation called coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG) to restore blood flow to the heart.

During a CABG, the surgeon uses a piece of artery or vein from another part of the patient's body to reroute blood around the blockage. Traditional CABG requires the surgeon to open the chest by separating the breast bone and stopping the heart and lungs.  When the heart and lungs are stopped, the patient is on a heart-lung bypass machine, which keeps oxygenated blood flowing through the body without passing through the heart and lungs.

Sometimes, the surgery can be performed without stopping the heart and lungs. This is called beating heart surgery, or off-pump CABG. The patient is given medication to slow the heart rate during the procedure and the surgeon uses special tools that stabilize and position the heart to provide access to the blocked arteries. With one part of the heart stabilized, the surgeon can perform the bypass while the rest of the heart pumps oxygen-rich blood to the patient's body.  Compared to traditional CABG, the benefits this procedure offers include a less likely need for blood transfusion, less risk of bleeding, stroke, or kidney failure, shorter hospital stays, and quicker recovery times.

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