Coronary artery bypass graft surgery is one of the most significant advancements in the fight against cardiovascular diseases, which is the leading cause of death and disability in the United States.
Heart surgery can be beneficial for patients who have severe cardiovascular diseases. The operation can be a lifesaver if the patient is having a heart attack or is at a high risk of having one.
Elective coronary bypass surgery is highly effective at eradicating or reducing angina and shortness of breath caused by diseased heart arteries. Since coronary bypass surgery is an open-heart procedure needing general anaesthesia and, in some cases, requires the heart to stop during the operation, it carries risks. In recent decades, there has been a steep drop in serious complications. Up to this date, more than 95% of people who undergo coronary bypass surgery do not experience serious complications and the risk of death immediately after the surgery is as low as 1-2%.
The emergency coronary bypass surgeries contain high risks of serious complications. Additionally, patients over 70 years old, females and have already had heart surgery are at higher risks. Patients with other health issues, such as diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, kidney disease or lung disease, might also be at a higher risk. Usually, every heart surgery presents the risk of complications. These risks can be specific to the procedure being performed. They vary depending on the type of cardiac operation, such as coronary artery bypass grafting, congenital defect repair, valve repairs, and others. It may be greater if the heart is stopped and blood is pumped by a cardiopulmonary bypass machine instead of the heart during the procedure.
While risks in coronary bypass surgery are relatively low today, the doctors and their team will make every possible effort to guard the patient against every possible complication and to treat them if they do develop.
They might include the following:
- Bleeding from the site- Around 30 per cent of patients require blood transfusions after the surgery. It is very rare that the bleeding is severe enough to necessitate an additional surgery.
- Heart rhythm problems- Atrial fibrillation is a situation in which the upper chambers of the heart quiver rather than beating properly, which is quite a common complication on the coronary bypass surgery and may contribute to blood clots that create in the heart and that might travel to other parts of the body. There are also few less common forms of heart rhythm problems that are quite possible.
- Blood clots– If blood clots develop, they might result in having a heart attack, stroke or lung problems.
- Infection at the incision site– The incision site is where the chest was opened for surgery. This complication is rare, taking place in only around 1 per cent of coronary bypass patients.
- Postpericardiotomy syndrome affects about 30% of patients between a few days and six months after coronary bypass surgery. Fever and chest pain are the signs.
- Kidney or renal failure– Coronary bypass surgery might temporarily damage the functioning of a patient’s kidneys.
- Difficulty in thought process or memory loss– Few patients notice difficulties in thinking after coronary bypass surgery. Mostly, this problem improves in 6 months to a year. Researchers are still working to know what causes this, although there is one possible theory; using a heart-lung machine that allows doctors to perform a surgery on the heart dislodges tiny bits of fatty build-up in an artery, which can travel to the brain and hinder some brain functions. There is a lot of ongoing research and study on this matter.
- Anesthesia’s reaction– The patient’s body might react to the anaesthesia when he or she is asleep, including difficulty in breathing.
- Death– It is very rare after coronary bypass surgery. It is typically caused by a heart attack or stroke.
Even though the heart bypass system has significantly improved in recent years, there are still dangers associated with its use. Ninety per cent of those who had surgery survived and were able to leave the hospital in a condition far better than before. As the research progressed, the rate of such survival increased dramatically, from 85 per cent in the early years to 98 per cent at present.