Did you know that the leading cause of death for men in the United States is heart disease?

Heart disease, or coronary artery disease, is most commonly diagnosed when the arteries that carry blood to the heart become blocked, resulting in serious conditions such as a heart attack.

As June is Men’s Health Month, CTVS encourages all men to take a good look at their overall health, and especially their heart.

Ways to ensure optimal heart health include eating a healthy low-fat diet, exercising regularly, and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check.

Unfortunately, some are still prone to heart disease (especially those with a family history of it) and may develop a dangerous buildup of plaque in their arteries. As plaque accumulates, blood flow decreases, and the risk of heart attack increases.

In cases of severe blocked arteries, and as a means to prevent heart attack, a cardiologist may recommend bypass surgery, or CABG, to help improve blood flow. And according to research, more men than women undergo this often life-saving procedure.

CABG (coronary artery bypass grafting) is the most common type of heart surgery performed, and it aims to reroute blood flow to the heart from the clogged arteries through healthier ones.

CABG is a procedure that our team of cardiothoracic surgeons at CTVS has been performing routinely for decades with highly successful outcomes.

CTVS board-certified cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Hunter Kirkland is experienced in CABG and shares an in-depth look at this procedure and what to expect if the surgery is ever recommended for you, or a loved one:

Why would someone need this procedure?

Patients who need this procedure are those who have more severe forms of coronary artery disease, or multiple arteries affected by blockages. These patients cannot be treated percutaneously, i.e. with stents, because this would be risky, and likely not last as long as a bypass operation. Patients who are younger and don’t have any other illnesses or underlying conditions, such as obesity, chronic lung disease, or insulin-dependent diabetes are ideal candidates for multiple arterial grafts.

 What are the risks?

The risks of surgery are dependent on the type of surgery required, as well as numerous factors having to do with the overall health of the patient. In general, for an elective (not an emergency) surgery on an otherwise healthy patient, the risks will be extremely low. The risk of death will be 1% or less, with a very low risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, wound infection, bleeding issues, or pneumonia (all less than 3 to 4%).

How long does it take to recover?

After bypass surgery, it will take about four to six weeks for a patient to return to normal activities. Patients are able to do light activities and self-care prior to discharge from the hospital. If a patient were having chest pain or shortness of breath before bypass surgery, that will often be better almost immediately. However it will take a few weeks to get your energy back and become fully active again.  

Typically how long are patients kept in the hospital?

Patients are typically kept in the hospital for about four to five days after surgery.

What symptoms of heart disease should patients watch for at home that may require them to reach out to their doctor?

The most common symptom is angina. This is usually pain located under the sternum, and is described as a squeezing, deep seated pain which can come on with activity, and is relieved by resting. It may be associated with shortness of breath, and that can even be the more dominant symptom. Some patients never have any pain, but instead notice they are short of wind, or just very easily fatigued.

Symptom severity and pattern can vary significantly,  and that is why any chest, neck, jaw or arm pain – or new onset shortness of breath – in a patient with appropriate risk factors should be referred to a cardiologist.

For questions about bypass surgery, or any of our cardiac, thoracic, or vascular services, please visit ctvstexas.comor call us at (512) 459-8753 to schedule an appointment.

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