About Beating-Heart Surgery

Our surgeons perform beating-heart surgeries because heart function is better preserved if it is not stopped during an operation. This is especially true with high-risk cases. 

(The procedure described on this page involves an open-chest approach. For information about minimally invasive beating-heart bypass surgery, read about totally endoscopic coronary artery bypass surgery, also known as TECAB.)

Frequently Asked Questions: Beating-Heart Coronary Artery Surgery

In an open-chest, beating-heart bypass procedure, surgeons make an incision through the breastbone to gain access to the heart. In many cases, surgeons do a partial sternotomy — which is a shorter incision through the breastbone than a full sternotomy. Unlike traditional bypass surgery, the heart is not stopped during a beating-heart bypass procedure. This approach uses special devices to stabilize the part of the heart the surgeon is operating on.

At UChicago Medicine, beating-heart bypass is typically performed without the use of a heart-lung bypass machine, though it may be performed with the support of the machine in select cases.

In comparison to traditional bypass surgery, the benefits of beating-heart bypass surgery include:

  • Quicker recovery
  • Reduced hospital stay
  • Reduced risk of neurological injury, including stroke and damage to the memory function
  • Better preservation of heart function
  • Less chance for heart rhythm, kidney or liver complications
  • Better survival rate, especially among high-risk patients

Most people who require coronary artery bypass graft surgery are candidates for the beating-heart approach. Surgeons weigh several factors, such as the location of blocked arteries, a patient's history of past thoracic surgeries and the presence of co-existing diseases. Patients with very poor heart function, cases that require re-operation involving the side of the heart, and hearts that are unable to tolerate manipulation, may not be appropriate for this approach.

More than 80 percent of coronary bypass surgeries performed at UChicago Medicine are done on a beating heart. No other hospital in the greater Chicago area performs such a high percentage of beating-heart bypass procedures. Although beating-heart bypass is not an option for all patients requiring bypass surgery, our experienced surgeons are frequently able to offer it safely to many patients refused by other hospitals.