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

What is beating-heart coronary artery bypass surgery and how is it performed?

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.

What are the benefits of beating-heart bypass surgery?

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

Who is a candidate for the beating-heart approach?

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.

Is beating-heart bypass surgery widely available?

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.