Why is Coronary Bypass Surgery the Best Treatment?

Why is Coronary Bypass Surgery the Best Treatment

When the blood vessels that transport blood to your heart becomes blocked or narrowed and there is a risk of heart attack or stroke, the most common and recommended treatment is a Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG) surgery. But…Why is Coronary Bypass Surgery considered the best treatment?  

Well, whilst there are definitely alternative treatments available (some of which certainly posit less risk,) CABG is the most recommended solution because the known benefits far outweigh the known risks.  

Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Overview 

Before we discuss the risks of CABG and why the benefits outweigh them, let’s first break down how a CABG surgery actually works. As an open heart surgery (the most common type performed on adults, in fact) there is no denying the risks and its invasiveness. 

It’s done in order to ‘redirect’ the flow of blood from blocked or partially blocked arteries by grafting healthy blood vessels from your leg, arm, or chest and connecting it to the afflicted area. Now, much like most treatment solutions for Coronary Artery Disease, CABG is not a cure.  

The procedure is done to ease the symptoms of the disease, improve heart function, and reduce the risk of known complications (i.e. heart attack or stroke.)  

The Risks 

The risks are inexorable, and complications may occur during or post-operation. Of the known after-effects of the procedure, the following are the most prevalent:  

  • Atrial Fibrillation (Irregular Heartbeat) — is one of the most common complications known to appear post-surgery. It’s considered non-lethal condition, but it is known to increase the risk of a stroke when left untreated. 
  • Infection — Incision points, as a result of the surgery, could potentially become infected. Your lungs or chest might also be vulnerable to infection, but in either case, treatments are available via antibiotics in the form of tablets or injections.  
  • Brain-Related Issues — Some patients also report experiencing memory loss, lack of focus, and mood-related issues post-surgery. Fortunately, these symptoms are known to improve after a couple of months. 
  • Reduced Kidney Functions — Your kidney might also suffer as a result of the surgery. However, much like with most of the other symptoms related to CABG, these issues are only temporary (it’s rare that people require dialysis as a result of the surgery.) 
  • Heart Attacks — In the first 30 days or so after your surgery, your body is left in a state of vulnerability because of surgery-stress, which could result in a heart attack whilst the surgery is happening or very soon afterward. 

The rate of major complications as a result of the surgery is at 20-30% whilst the mortality rate (which has been greatly reduced over the years) is at 2-3%.  

Conclusion: Why is Coronary Bypass Surgery the Best Treatment? 

Knowing the complications involved, it’s difficult to imagine why Coronary Bypass Surgery is preferable to something like angioplasty, for example, which is less invasive and less likely to result in any major complications. However, the benefits do exist. 

For one, a lot of the other alternatives can’t compare to the effectiveness of Coronary Bypass Surgery — which is able to treat multiple blockages at once (unlike angioplasty.) It’s also been studied to reduce the risk of most major complications associated with Coronary Artery Disease in the long-term. 

Those that get through the surgery, and the immediate six months (up to a year) wherein patients experience the most side-effects and complications, can expect to remain primarily symptom-free for decades (especially if they manage to maintain a healthy lifestyle by way of medication or dietary changes.)  

REFERENCES: 

  1. NHS Choices, NHS, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/atrial-fibrillation/ 
  2. Hawkes, Anna Louise, et al. “Outcomes of Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery.” Vascular Health and Risk Management, Dove Medical Press, 2006, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1994021/