How Risky Is Bypass Surgery?

How Risky is Bypass Surgery

A heart bypass surgery is a complicated medical procedure that is undergone by patients who have blocked off blood vessels. It is an operation that is meticulously planned, in order to allow for adequate preparation. But how risky is bypass surgery actually?

Fortunately, although it is a complex procedure, bypass surgery is considered relatively safe. It’s also one of the most effective methods of reducing the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and death in patients who are afflicted with Coronary Artery Disease.

Below, we’ll introduce all the potential risks linked to bypass surgery.


In a retrospective study of bypass surgery patients from 2006 to 2008, it was discovered that more than 95% of people who underwent the operation did not experience any major complications as a result of the surgery.

It’s also been said that the risk of death, after the procedure, is now only at 1-2 percent. In that sense, we have witnessed a greater chance of successful surgeries over the decades. However, that doesn’t mean that complications do not happen.

As mentioned, the procedure is highly complex. It’s an open-heart operation, that will require the patient to be under general anesthesia. In some cases, the patient’s heart might also need to be stopped mid-procedure. So, there is no way that it would not involve risks, but what exactly are these risks and how grave are they?

What Are The Most Common Complications?

The risk potential of all the complications listed below, increase exponentially in patients who are over the age of 70, are female, and/or are diabetic. According to some research, said complications are also more likely to occur in patients who have already had heart surgery or those afflicted with the following conditions: peripheral artery disease, kidney disease, or lung disease.

  • Bleeding: In some cases, undergoing bypass surgery might result in bleeding in the grafted area. As a result, around 30% of patients find themselves requiring blood transfusions after the surgery.
  • Heart Rhythm: Another common issue is atrial fibrillation, which is what some might call ‘quivers,’ which prevent the heart from beating as it should.
  • Blood Clots: There is a chance that clots that form in the heart travel through the bloodstream and cause blockages elsewhere, which could result in a heart attack, stroke, or serious lung condition.
  • Post-Pericardiotomy Syndrome: This is less of a risk and more of an after effect, it causes fevers and chest pain that last up to a couple of days up to 6 full months.
  • Memory loss: Much like the previous ‘complication’ this is more of an after effect that some patients report to have that last for 6-12 months. 
  • Kidney Failure: This is a rare and very operable complication, that happens as a result of the surgery causing damage to the patient’s kidneys.
  • Adverse Reaction to Anesthesia: People react to anesthesia very differently, and in some cases, having to be put under general anesthesia might result in difficulty in breathing.
  • Heart Attack or Stroke: These are the most serious complications that could result in death post-bypass surgery.

Final Thoughts

There are obvious risks when it comes to undergoing bypass surgery. However, that doesn’t change the fact that it is one of the most effective ways of treating patients who are afflicted with serious cardiovascular diseases. In the end, what’s really important here is that it can allow patients to live their life comfortably and for a longer period of time.


  1. Lin, Chien-Chao, et al. “Prediction of Major Complications after Isolated Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting: the CGMH Experience.” Chang Gung Medical Journal, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2010,
  2. Chakravarthy, Murali. “Modifying Risks to Improve Outcome in Cardiac Surgery: An Anesthesiologist’s Perspective.” Annals of Cardiac Anaesthesia, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, 2017,