As the name implies, a heart bypass surgery is a surgical procedure that reroutes the blood flow within your heart to circumvent a fully or partially blocked artery in your heart. It is a major surgery that involves removing a normal blood vessel from your arms, legs, or chest and using it to forge a new pathway around your blocked artery. Blood flow to the heart is consequently improved.
You should know that heart bypass surgery does not remove the blockage in your arteries or cure the underlying disease or condition that caused such blockages. It, however, can give you respite from some of the symptoms associated with your heart disease such as chest pain and breathing difficulty.
Why do doctors recommend heart bypass surgery?
As already discussed, a heart bypass surgery is a clinical solution for the blockages in your heart’s blood vessels. Doctors recommend it in conditions such as:
- A severely blocked or narrowed left coronary artery- the main blood supply to the left ventricle, causing decreased blood flow to the left ventricle, which is your heart’s most important pumping chamber.
- Debilitating chest pains that flare up with little exertion due to multiple or severe blockages in the heart’s arteries, resulting in poor blood flow to your heart muscles.
- An artery blockage that cannot be resolved via an angioplasty- a procedure that involves temporarily widening the blocked artery with the help of an inflatable balloon called a stent.
- Unsuccessful angioplasty treatments
If your heart bypass surgery is not an emergency, you will have ample time to physically and mentally prepare for it. Make arrangements so that your post-operative recovery process is quick and smooth.
You might have felt overwhelming fear and anxiety when you initially discovered that you would need to undergo a heart bypass surgery. The remedy for this is to be prepared in the best possible manner.
As part of your pre-surgery prep, you should follow your doctor’s orders regarding alterations to your regular medications and dietary and activity restrictions. Read up on your surgery and its implications so that you can make informed decisions and choices. You might also want to arrange at-home post-operative care from loved ones or paid healthcare workers. Remember that it will take you a minimum of a month or more to fully care for yourself and resume your daily chores, so ensure that you have planned for your care at home.
The surgical procedure
You will be under general anesthesia for your surgery, which could last between three and six hours. You will also be on ventilator support during and after your surgery until your condition stabilizes. A ventilator is a machine that takes care of your breathing while your heart is being repaired. For the surgery, a long incision will be made along the centre of your chest to reveal the breastbone underneath, which would then be opened to reveal the heart nestled in your chest cavity.
Your surgeon will employ one of three techniques to perform your heart bypass surgery:
Your surgeon will temporarily cease the functioning of your heart via medication. An ECMO, or heart-lung machine, will take over the functions of your heart and lungs for the duration of your surgery and immediately after.
In this procedure, your surgeon will work on your heart while it is still beating, using cutting-edge medical equipment and procedures that allow such a feat to be accomplished.
Also descriptively known as port-access or keyhole surgery, the minimally invasive type involves accessing your heart via a small incision. Your surgeon employs robots and video imaging to safely and accurately conduct the surgery.
After grafting the new route for your heart’s blood supply, your ribcage will be mended with indestructible wire mesh, and your incision will be sutured.
You will be cared for in the ICU for the first couple of days after surgery, where your doctor and other care providers will monitor you closely and ensure that you are on the path to recovery.
Following your stay in the ICU, you will need to be under medical supervision for a few more days. During this time, various healthcare teams will work with you to ensure you do what is required for a speedy recovery.
You will be allowed to go home in about a week post-surgery. At home, it is important that you strictly adhere to your doctor’s instructions, care for your wound and general health, and not partake in strenuous activity for the first six weeks at the very least.
Slowly and steadily, as guided by your body, you can increase your daily productivity until you are fully recovered and able to lead a normal life.
You can enjoy the new lease of complication-free life that your heart bypass surgery gave you for a minimum of ten to fifteen years and much longer if you commit to changing your lifestyles such as no smoking, no alcohol, regular exercise, weight management, healthy eating, and a stress-free lifestyle.
Choosing the right healthcare provider and facility for this surgery is also important. Max Healthcare Group has a dedicated Institute for Heart and Vascular Sciences spearheaded by a team of renowned doctors specializing in heart bypass surgeries and other cardiovascular treatment procedures.
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