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What is Heart Bypass Surgery? Print E-mail
Written by Kimberly Vaughn, MD   
Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Heart bypass surgery is an open-heart surgery that is done to reroute or "bypass" blood around clogged arteries. Arteries are the tubes in which blood flows to and from the heart. Over time they can become blocked by a buildup of plaque, which is a combination of fat, cholesterol, and other substances.

This blockage, known as atherosclerosis, lowers the blood and oxygen supply to the heart. Heart bypass surgery, also known as coronary artery bypass graft surgery or CABG, reroutes the blood around these clogged arteries.

How is the procedure performed?

The two most common forms of heart bypass surgery are:
- saphenous vein bypass. A large vein, called the saphenous vein, is removed from one of the legs. One end of the vein is attached to the aorta, the large artery leaving the heart, and the other end is connected to the coronary artery below the blockage.
- internal mammary artery bypass. An artery called the internal mammary artery, located behind the breastbone, is used to bypass the blocked coronary artery.

A heart-lung machine is used during the surgery to keep the blood oxygenated while the heart isn't pumping.

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