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Bypass surgery reroutes, or “bypasses,” blood around clogged arteries to improve the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart. Plaque, which is a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances slows or stops blood flow through the heart’s blood vessels. This can lead to a heart attack.

Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery (Open Heart Bypass Surgery)

Conventional open heart bypass surgery is performed to improve blood flow to the heart and to prevent an imminent heart attack. It involves taking a portion of healthy vein, usually from the leg, and grafting it onto a diseased coronary artery to create a bypass around a blockage. A single artery may need several bypass grafts if more than one blockage exists.

During the procedure, patients are placed on a cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB), or a heart-lung machine. The heart-lung machine functions as both your heart and lungs during the operation.

OPCAB (Off-Pump Coronary Bypass Surgery)

The ability to operate on a beating heart without relying on a heart-lung machine is one of the most innovative advances in coronary bypass surgery. This procedure, known as Off-Pump Coronary Artery Bypass (OPCAB), reduces the risk of stroke, bleeding, kidney failure, cognitive dysfunction, and memory loss often associated with the use of the heart-lung machine.

To assist the surgeon while operating on the beating heart, medications are used to slow the heart rate, eliminating the need for a heart lung machine. To allow for access to the entire heart, there must be a sufficient amount of cardiac displacement. This is accomplished by using specialized instruments to prop the heart in a position that will allow the surgeon access to occluded arteries.

Because of the innovative nature of this procedure, we are proud to have served as a designated regional OPCAB training center for cardiac surgeons in the Western region of the United States.

Sutureless Heart Surgery

Sutureless vascular graft surgery is a procedure using a stainless steel device with an expandable clip which balloons out and connects the bypass vessel to the coronary artery. The device bypasses the occluded artery, attaching to the aorta while the other portion of the vein is sutured to the heart. In sutureless surgery, the device’s external hooks hold the vein graft in place while internal hooks secure the inside of the artery. With this technique, blood vessels are generally connected in less than two minutes. Sutureless heart surgery can be used on any myocardial vein graft procedure, for open heart or off-pump coronary artery bypass.

Advantages of sutureless techniques include:

  • more consistent connection between the blood vessels
  • shorter recovery times
  • fast, reliable connections performed on a beating heart

For more information on off-pump coronary artery bypass, contact St. Vincent Medical Center.