Cardiac Bypass Surgery

Cardiac Bypass Surgery: What Are The Risks And Complications?

Any medical procedure has possible risks and complications. The most common risks in bypass surgery include:

  • Too much bleeding, requiring more surgery
  • Infection of the wound
  • Stroke, the sudden death of brain cells due to lack of oxygen caused by a blockage
  • Blood clots
  • Organ failure (liver, kidney, lung)
  • Heart attacks occur in 5% to 10% of patents, and are the main cause of death.

While survival rates for cardiac bypass surgery are good, if the above complications are severe, they can cause mortality (death). This may occur in about 3% of bypass operations.

Complications increase with:

  • Increased age
  • Poor heart muscle function
  • Blockage of the main coronary artery
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Chronic kidney failure
  • Being a woman, as they develop the disease about 10 years later than men because they are protected by hormones prior to menopause. Women are generally smaller than men, with smaller coronary arteries, which may also make the procedure more difficult.

Need To Know:

Long-term results of coronary bypass surgery

The long-term success of your surgery depends upon a variety of factors individual to you. You can control some factors such as your lifestyle (diet, physical activity and stress management), but others such as family history, can’t be controlled. Here are some of the average long terms results for coronary bypass surgery:

  • 5-10% of bypass vessels become blocked within the first 2 weeks after surgery due to blood clotting.
  • Another 10% of close off between 2 weeks and 1 year after surgery. Taking aspirin to thin the blood has been shown to reduce these later closings by 50%.
  • After 10 years, 2/3 of vein grafts are open, but 1/2 of these have some narrowing.
  • The use of arteries rather than veins for bypass greatly improves the likelihood of the vessels remaining open (90%) 10 years after surgery.


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