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Beating Heart Bypass Surgery

Understanding Heart Disease

Heart disease in the coronary arteries (also known as coronary artery disease, or CAD) occurs when they become clogged from a buildup of cells, fat, and cholesterol. This buildup is called plaque. As the inside of the coronary arteries gather plaque and narrow, they decrease the flow of blood and oxygen that nourishes the heart muscle. This narrowing and hardening of the arteries is known as atherosclerosis.
The heart needs blood -- and the oxygen and nutrients it carries -- to function properly. When you are active or under stress, the heart needs even more blood. But if the coronary arteries become blocked, there might not be enough blood flow to the heart muscle. This lack of blood and oxygen, which is called ischemia, might cause symptoms such as:
  • An irregular heart rhythm
  • Shortness of breath
  • Angina (pain, tightness, or pressure in your chest).
These symptoms may only last for a few minutes, depending on how much of the heart isn't receiving enough blood. However, the longer the heart goes without blood and oxygen, the worse the problems might be. Over time, the parts of the heart that don't get enough oxygen can be permanently damaged and die. This is what happens during a heart attack.
Longer periods of ischemia can also cause serious irregular heart rhythms and heart failure, which can be fatal.

Preparing for Beating Heart Bypass Surgery

Off-pump bypass surgery is performed on an inpatient basis, which means you will stay in the hospital after the procedure. Some people also need to stay overnight before the heart bypass surgery.
Depending on your situation, you may undergo other tests prior to your beating heart bypass surgery. Your healthcare provider will explain the specific purpose of each test.
Your healthcare provider should also give you specific instructions, telling you where and when to arrive at the medical facility, how to prepare for your procedure, and what to expect the day of and the days following your surgery. You will be asked not to eat or drink anything for at least eight hours before your procedure.
Most people stay in the hospital for about three to five days after the operation, but some people need to stay longer. You may want to have someone drive you to the hospital and help you get settled in. Since you won't be able to drive for some time after your procedure, be sure to also arrange for someone to drive you home when you leave the hospital.
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