Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting

At UVA, we’re ranked among the top 50 hospitals in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. We’ve also received the highest possible performance rating for all nine common conditions and procedures reviewed, including heart bypass surgery. 

A coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) restores blood flow to the heart muscle. This surgery uses blood vessels from other parts of the body to make a new route for blood to flow around blocked coronary arteries.

Do I Need CABG?

Atherosclerosis is a disease of the arteries where cholesterol and fatty deposits build up on the walls of the arteries and restrict blood flow. It may lead to chest pain or heart attack.

CABG may be needed if lifestyle changes and medication can't treat atherosclerosis. It's often recommended in cases of:

  • Severe blockage in the main artery or in several blood vessels that supply blood to the heart
  • Persistent angina that does not improve with other treatments

CABG Treatment at UVA

Prior to Procedure

Your doctor will likely do the following:

  • Physical exam
  • Chest X-ray
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG)
  • Coronary angiogram

Talk to your doctor about your medication. You may need to stop taking certain medication for one week before surgery.

Description of Procedure

You will receive general anesthesia and a breathing tube. Your breastbone is split to open the chest and connect a heart-lung machine that breathes for you while your heart stops for the procedure. 

Your doctor removes an artery from the chest wall or a section of vein from the leg for the bypass. The new vessels are grafted to the blocked arteries. One end is attached just above the blockage and the other just below the blockage. Once in place, your heart can begin to beat on its own without the heart-lung machine. The breastbone is wired together, and stitches or staples help close your chest. You may have temporary tubes in your chest to help drain any fluid.

Minimally Invasive Coronary Artery Surgery

Minimally invasive coronary artery surgery uses a different technique where a small incision is made in the chest. Your doctor uses an artery from inside the chest for the bypass. The key difference in this technique is that the doctor performs the surgery while the heart is beating and a heart-lung machine isn't needed.

You may be a candidate if you have only one or two clogged arteries.

Immediately After Procedure

Both procedures take about 4-5 hours and require a 5-7 day stay in the hospital. You will be monitored in the ICU, with the following interventions:

  • Heart monitor
  • Pacing wires to control heart rate
  • Tubes connected to a machine to drain fluids from the wound
  • Breathing tube or an oxygen mask
  • Catheter inserted into the bladder
While in the hospital, you'll be asked to breathe deeply and cough 10-20 times every hour to reduce the risk of fluid buildup in your lungs. You must elevate your leg if a leg vein was removed during surgery.


Call us at 434.243.1000.


Content was created using EBSCO's Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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