Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG) Benefits, Risks, and Complications

CABG is a hugely beneficial procedure, though it comes with both common surgical risks and unique complications.

Helpful Highlights

  • CABG is a time-tested procedure, with about 200,000 performed every year (also the most commonly performed cardiac surgery worldwide).

  • It has proven quality of life benefits.

  • It also comes with surgical risks, as well as risks unique to cardiac procedures.

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CABG benefits & advantages

  • Generally improves quality of life by decreasing or eliminating angina and other heart disease symptoms

  • Facilitates resuming a more active lifestyle

  • Improves the pumping action of the heart damaged by a heart attack

  • Lowers the risk of an initial or second heart attack (especially in those with conditions that impact the cardiovascular system, such as diabetes)

  • Improves the chance of survival

  • Has a long history of success 

  • Better for multiple blockages or blockages in major coronary arteries 

  • Lowers potential for follow-up procedures

CABG risks & complications

Coronary artery bypass surgery is open-heart surgery. All surgeries have some risks. While most of these risks and complications are avoidable or treatable, it’s still important to understand them.

Complication risk is higher if the surgery is done as an emergency procedure.

  • Bleeding

  • Secondary heart attack due to a blood clot after surgery

  • Other heart conditions emerge (such as heart failure)

  • Infection at the site of the chest incision

  • Irregular heart rhythms (called arrhythmias)

  • Kidney problems

  • Memory loss or trouble thinking clearly (though this is often temporary)

  • Stroke

  • Death

Your loved one's specific risk of complications after bypass surgery (CABG) also depends on their overall health before surgery. These medical conditions increase the risk of complications:

  • Cardiovascular disease in the lower extremities (blocked arteries in the legs)

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

  • Diabetes

  • Chronic kidney disease (CKD)

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