Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery | Procedure | MedStar Health

Using cutting-edge methods to divert blood flow around a diseased portion of artery

Your doctor may recommend this surgery if narrowing or blockages in one or more of your coronary arteries (coronary artery disease) reduce the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your heart. This surgery, also known as coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG, pronounced “cabbage”), restores normal blood flow by using a healthy blood vessel taken from your leg, arm, or chest to create a detour around the problem area. It’s not uncommon to bypass two, three, or more coronary arteries during surgery. You may have heard this called double or triple bypass.

This surgery is one of the most common heart surgeries our cardiac surgeons perform. We perform nearly half of these procedures as off-pump bypass surgery also known as beating-heart bypass. With this method, we use special tools to stabilize a portion of the heart to allow it to keep beating while we bypass the blocked artery.

Traditionally, it is performed with the assistance of a cardiopulmonary bypass machine, which temporarily takes over the function of the heart and lungs. This is known as on-pump surgery. Patients who have off-pump bypass surgery recover faster and have reduced risk for complications such as stroke, the need for blood transfusions, and kidney and lung problems.

You and your doctor will discuss your unique situation to determine which form of bypass surgery will be best to return you to your normal daily activities, relieve symptoms such as shortness of breath and chest pain, and lower your risk for future heart problems.

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What happens during the procedure?

You will be given general anesthesia to put you to sleep during the surgery. Your surgeon will first remove the blood vessel to be used as a graft. Your surgeon will then make an incision in your chest to access your heart and coronary arteries. If your surgery is being performed on-pump, your heart will be stopped, and the heart-lung machine will take over circulating blood through the body. A breathing tube attached to a ventilator will breathe for you.

One end of the graft will be attached just below the diseased portion of the artery, while the other end will be attached to a tiny opening made in the aorta. This will divert the flow of blood around the blockage.

Before the chest incision is closed, you may be given a temporary pacemaker in case you experience an abnormal heart rhythm after surgery. The surgery will last 3 to 5 hours, depending on how many arteries are being bypassed. You’ll likely need to stay in the hospital for 1 week, and recovery can take up to 12 weeks. Taking part in cardiac rehabilitation can help you recover more safely and effectively.


Anomalous Left Coronary Artery from the Pulmonary Artery (ALCAPA)
Anomalous left coronary artery from the pulmonary artery (ALCAPA) is a rare congenital heart disease in which the left coronary artery is connected to the pulmonary artery instead of the aorta.

Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease in the United States.

Coronary Calcification

Coronary calcification occurs when calcium builds up in the plaque found in the walls of the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart muscle.

Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction)

A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction (MI), requires emergency medical attention. A heart attack happens when the flow of blood to the heart is blocked.

Ischemic Cardiomyopathy

Ischemic cardiomyopathy is an enlargement and weakening of the heart’s left ventricle. This decreases the heart’s ability to pump blood throughout the body.

Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD)

Spontaneous coronary artery dissection is a tear in the layers of tissue of the coronary artery. Blood can collect between these layers, causing a blockage of blood flow to the heart.


Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive way to diagnose and treat a variety of heart and vascular conditions by guiding thin, flexible tubes called catheters through blood vessels to problem areas.

Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan

The cardiac computed tomography scan, or cardiac CT, uses X-rays to create three-dimensional images of your heart and blood vessels.


An echocardiogram uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of your heart.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

An electrocardiogram, also known as an ECG, measures the heart’s electrical activity.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging, better known as cardiac MRI, is a combination of radio waves, magnets, and computer technology to create images of your heart and blood vessels.

Our locations

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MedStar Union Memorial Hospital

201 E. University Pkwy.
Baltimore, MD 21218

MedStar Washington Hospital Center

110 Irving St. NW
Washington, DC 20010

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