How does bypass surgery work? Is bypass surgery invasive? And, will you experience any pain before, during, or after the operation?
In the United States alone, over 200,000 bypass surgeries are performed by doctors each year. But, many remain ignorant as to what actually happens during a bypass operation. That is why we’re going to answer the question… Is bypass surgery painful? If put simply…
As a complex surgical procedure that might require the doctor to temporarily stop your heart, there is no denying that Bypass Surgery is taxing. However, there should be no pain before or during your surgery. It’s only the post-bypass stage that you’ll have to prepare for.
Learn more about the preparation, the procedure, and the recovery process below.
Before Bypass Surgery
Most bypass surgeries these days are done by appointment. So, unless you require an emergency operation, you’ll be given a time and date for your surgery and then provided instructions on what to do before your bypass operation to minimize any pain that you might feel after-the-fact. These may include:
- Quitting smoking.
- Fasting the night before your operation.
- Arranging your home for home recovery.
- Using special anti-bacterial soap to prevent infection.
- Not take pain relievers or heart medications that might affect blood clotting.
- Taking any medication that the doctor prescribes for the operation.
- And, so on.
The doctor might also want to perform some physical tests prior to the surgery. Starting with a general check-up, then moving on to other exams that may better prepare you for the operation and what comes after. These tests can include blood tests, x-rays, an electrocardiogram, or an angiogram.
During Bypass Surgery
Right before your operation, you’ll be given medication, fluids, and anesthesia by a handling physician. This will all be done through IV and should put you into a deep sleep that will cut you off from feeling any pain during the procedure. Which will proceed in the following stages:
- The Incision: First, the surgeon will make an incision in the middle of your chest. How big the incision is will depend on what the surgeon decides is appropriate. There are specially made instruments and robots designed for the purpose of minimizing the size of the incision — allowing the surgeon to make the procedure less invasive. However, if the situation requires closer access to your heart, the incision will need to be large enough to allow your rib cage to be spread open.
- Off-Pump or On-Pump: Depending on what the surgeon decides during the incision stage, you may be connected to a machine that will act as a blood circulator to keep your body going during the operation. If not, then the operation will proceed ‘off-pump.’
- Grafting: With your chest ready, the grafting process begins. For this, the surgeon will have to remove a healthy blood vessel or vein (from either your leg or arm) and attach it to the occluded artery in your chest.
- Testing: Once the bypass graft is attached, it will be tested. If it works, you’ll be stitched up, carefully bandaged, and then taken elsewhere to be monitored.
- Monitoring: This is performed initially in the Intensive Care Unit — where you might spend a day or two. Followed by several more days in the hospital, in a general room.
After Bypass Surgery
According to several studies, the pain is worst immediately after the surgery. You’ll wake from the anesthesia with a tube in your mouth, and pain centered around your chest area — where the incision was made. However, your doctor should prescribe medications to prevent pain (mostly over the counter drugs in the form of ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Narcotics are reserved only for those who experience major complications and symptoms.)
Other medications, like antiplatelets, will also be provided to help you recover and prevent any issues from hindering said recovery.
When Should You Call Your Doctor?
Some amount of discomfort is expected after open-heart surgery, but there is a limit to what is considered normal. Call your doctor if you are feeling feverish, if you are experiencing heart arrhythmia (rapid or unnatural heart rate), if your chest pain is increasing rather than tapering off, or, even, if you see any redness or weird discharge from the incision wound on your chest.
Make sure to attend the general follow-ups required after your surgery as well, as this will allow your doctor to ensure that your incision is healing up nicely, and prevent any complications that may occur.
Conclusion: Is Bypass Surgery Painful?
Recent years have brought a lot of improvement when it comes to bypass operations. Pain is to be expected after putting your body through such a complex procedure, but trust that your doctor will do all that they can to make sure that you are as comfortable as possible before, during, and after the surgery.
If you’re still concerned about potential issues that may occur during your operation, talk to a doctor today. They’ll be able to tell you what your chances are like and what they can do to minimize the pain based on your own unique circumstances.
- Jannati, Mansour, and Armin Attar. “Analgesia and Sedation Post-Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery: a Review of the Literature.” Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, Dove, 20 June 2019, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6592068/.
- Sattari, Mohammadreza, et al. “Study of Patient Pain Management after Heart Surgery.” Advanced Pharmaceutical Bulletin, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3848238/.