The most commonly performed open heart surgery in the United States is coronary artery bypass grafting, often called "cabbage" for its initials, CABG.
CABG is just one of the treatments for coronary heart disease, which is the number one cause of heart disease, killing more than 310,000 people every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One in every four deaths is related to heart disease.
To treat CHD, which is caused by the build-up of plaque in the coronary arteries, surgeons often will perform heart bypass surgery. This is an open heart surgery in which the surgeon grafts a vein from somewhere else in your body — commonly from your chest wall (a thoracic vein) or from your leg (a saphenous vein) — to open the pathway for blood to reach your heart, according to WebMD.
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Although a common surgery, there are always risks with any procedure. If you may need heart bypass surgery in the future, here are some of the risks to discuss with your doctor:
Several factors can increase your risks of developing complications from CABG. According to NHS,
your age (the older you are, the riskier the procedure); additional serious, long-term diseases, such as diabetes or severe chronic kidney disease; being female (women tend to develop heart disease later than men, so this may be more a factor of age than sex); emergency surgery to treat a heart attack; having grafts done on three or more vessels; and being overweight (a deeper incision is required, which carries a higher risk of infection).
Infections can occur at any incision site, which would include areas where a vein is removed to use in the heart graft (like the leg) or the chest incision for the surgery, according to NHS. Most can be treated with antibiotics.
A reaction to the anesthesia can occur during surgery.
Inflammation of the lung and heart sac can cause "fever associated with chest pain, irritability, and decreased appetite," reports the National Institute of Health
. "This complication sometimes occurs after surgeries that involve cutting through the pericardium (the outer covering of the heart). The problem usually is mild, but some patients may develop fluid buildup around the heart that requires treatment."
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Some people, usually older, experience memory loss or problems with concentration and most of such problems resolve within a year of the surgery, according to the National Institute of Health.
Bleeding during or after the surgery can be a problem in some cases, as can blood clots that cause heart attack, stroke, or lung problems, according to the Johns Hopkins Medicine
About 20 percent of patients who undergo CABG surgery suffer from severe depression during recovery, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Patients and family members or caretakers should be aware of the risk and talk to the healthcare provider. Depression can significantly affect recovery time.
A complication that may occur after open heart surgery is arrhythmias, or the improper beating of the heart. It can be irregular, too fast, or too slow. They "represent a major cause of morbidity, increased length of hospital stay, and economic costs," according to an article exploring the issue published in Cardiology Research and Practice.
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