Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting

U.S. News & World Report has ranked UVA the No. 1 hospital in Virginia. We’ve also received the highest possible performance rating for six procedures, 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

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.

Standard CABG Procedure

You will receive general anesthesia and a breathing tube. The surgeon opens your chest through your sternum. We then connect you to 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.

Surgery takes about 4-5 hours and requires a 5-7 day stay in the hospital, 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, we'll have you 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.

Minimally Invasive Coronary Artery Surgery (MICS CABG)

This advanced technique allows surgeons to carry out a complete multiple bypass operation through only a small chest incision. With video and/or robotics, the surgeon uses an artery from your chest for the bypass. Unlike with traditional CABG, we can perform the bypass while your heart is still beating. 

MICS CABG Eligibility

Surgeons perform MICS CABG on patients with only one or two clogged arteries. If your age or medical history made you too high risk for open-heart surgery, you might be eligible for MICS CABG. 

Benefits of MICS CABG

MICS CABG gives patients:

  • Shorter hospital stays
  • Faster recovery
  • Better scar healing
  • Infection risk reduction

After the procedure, you can expect to be:

  • Out of bed and walking within 12 hours
  • Home within 2-4 days
  • Driving within 2 weeks
  • Returning to work in 4-6 weeks (6-12 for standard CABG)
  • Without physical restrictions

See your surgeon for an exam to evaluate your options.


Call 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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