Heart bypass surgery creates a new route, called a bypass, for blood and oxygen to go around a blockage to reach your heart.

You may need this procedure if you have a blockage in one or more of your coronary arteries. Coronary arteries are the vessels that supply your heart with oxygen and nutrients that are carried in your blood. Learn more about how your heart works.

When one or more of the coronary arteries becomes partly or totally blocked, your heart does not get enough blood. This is called coronary artery disease.

Your doctor may first have you try medications, exercise and diet changes, or angioplasty with stenting. If these treatments don’t work, heart bypass surgery can be used to improve blood flow to your heart.

What to Expect During Your Heart Bypass Surgery

Before your surgery, you will receive general anesthesia so you will be asleep (unconscious) and pain-free during surgery.

Once you are unconscious, your heart surgeon will make an incision in the middle of your chest. Your breastbone will be separated to create an opening.

Most people who have bypass surgery are connected to a heart-lung bypass machine. This machine does the work of your heart and lungs while your heart is stopped for surgery.

Another type of bypass surgery does not use the heart-lung bypass machine. The procedure is done while your heart is still beating – called an off-pump coronary artery bypass.

To create the bypass graft, your doctor wil take a vein or artery from another part of your body to make a detour (or graft) around the blocked area in your artery.

After the graft has been created, your breastbone will be closed with wires and the surgical cut will be closed with stitches.

The surgery can take 4 to 6 hours. After surgery, you will recover in the cardiac intensive care unit.

Heart Bypass Surgery at Wake Forest Baptist

At Wake Forest Baptist, we have been performing heart surgery for nearly 50 years. We are one of only a few hospitals with expertise in using patients’ own arteries instead of your veins. For patients needing multiple bypasses, we use multiple arteries. This technique provides long-lasting relief for patients with advanced forms of heart failure.

Your team of experts includes specialists in every aspect of heart surgery. We work together to provide the best available surgical treatments and sophisticated, continuous post-surgical care.

  • Cardiac surgeons: Our fellowship-trained cardiothoracic surgeons recommend and deliver the best surgical approach for each patient.
  • Cardiac anesthesiologists: Our anesthesiologists are solely dedicated to cardiac surgery and have expertise in meeting the special needs of cardiac patients.
  • Nurses and physician assistants: These are cardiac care specialists with advanced training in post-operative care for heart patients. Some of our team members have more than three decades of experience.
  • Specially trained intensivists: Physicians in our dedicated cardiac care intensive care unit provide 24/7 care as you recover from heart surgery.