Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery (“CABG”)

What is Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery?

This surgery is performed to relieve angina symptoms by improving the blood flow to the heart muscle. This can result in better quality of life, with angina reduced or entirely relieved.

CABG is an operation that bypasses a narrowed or block part of a coronary artery using a graft. The graft is a section of vein or artery which is either taken from the leg (saphenous vein), the chest wall (the internal mammary artery) or the forearm (radial artery). It is quite normal to need two, three or four grafts (“double,” “triple,” or “quadruple” bypass surgery).

How long will I have to wait before I have my surgery?

Your doctor will advise you when your surgery will be scheduled. In New Zealand, we do not generally have long wait times for this type of surgery, whether your surgery is to be performed in a private or public hospital.

What happens during my stay in hospital?

You are usually admitted to hospital the day before your surgery. You will meet with your surgeon and anaesthetist who will explain the operation to you and answer any questions you may have. You will also need to sign a consent form agreeing to the operation and the anaesthetic.

You will have some blood tests, and an ECG. Any hair around the operation site will be clipped or shaved, including your chest, legs and possibly arms. You may also be required to shower using antibacterial solutions.

On the day of surgery, you will be instructed when to stop eating and drinking. Any jewellery and/or glasses can be given to your support person, or nurse, for safekeeping.

What happens after the operation?

You will wake up in the Intensive Care Unit (“ICU”) or High Dependency Unit (“HDU”). You will be monitored closely for 12 – 24 hours.

It is normal to wake up with a breathing tube in your throat. Once you are awake enough, the tube will be removed and you will wear an oxygen mask or nasal prongs instead, to improve your breathing. Most people do not remember having a breathing tube and it is quite common to feel a bit disorientated, but this will not last long.

The ICU/HDU machines that are monitoring your heart and condition can be noisy. You may also notice tubes in your neck, arms, chest and bladder. This is usual following surgery. It is normal to feel very sleepy and to sleep a lot for the first few days. You may not even remember your stay in ICU/HDU. This is normal.

You will be returned to the ward once you’re fully awake.

How long will I stay in hospital?

Usually for five – seven days after your surgery. You will be advised not to go home alone. If there is no one to take care of you, tell the doctors and nurses and they will arrange for someone to talk to you about different options.

How long until I’m back to normal after CABG?

It takes about three months for the breastbone to heal, so during this time you will have some discomfort in your chest.

Surgery is a treatment of symptoms and not a cure. Some re-narrowing of the arteries will occur over time.

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Ascot Hospital, Level 3
90 Greenlane East
Remuera, Auckland 1051
PO Box 17264,
Greenlane, Auckland 1546

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