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Traditional bypass surgery involves an incision through the breastbone and the use of a heart-lung bypass machine. In this procedure, the heart is stopped and a heart-lung machine is used to pump blood and perform the functions normally achieved by the lungs. The surgeon performs the bypass operation on the stopped heart, and then revives the heart later during the procedure.
All types of bypass surgeries performed by the physicians from the University of Chicago Medicine typically use arterial grafts because they can better withstand blood pressure over time.
Over the years, our cardiac surgeons have refined their approach to coronary artery bypass surgery, so this open-chest, stopped-heart technique is performed less often than it was in the past. We can usually offer minimally invasive approaches or beating-heart options that provide benefits over traditional bypass surgery. Our surgeons have a long track record of success performing coronary bypass surgery, and are experts in determining the best approach to reduce chest pain and improve blood flow to the heart.
Surgery with the heart-lung bypass machine has been associated with a slight increase in the risk for complications such as stroke and memory problems. Yet it's important to note that heart-lung bypass machines have been in use for many years, with several improvements in technology making the machines better than ever. If your surgery requires the bypass machine, be assured that our surgeons and perfusionists are experts in using this life-saving equipment.
For high-risk patients, such as the elderly or those who have had multiple open-heart procedures, our surgeons can offer sternal plating, a method that secures the breastbone after open-chest surgery to help it heal properly. Surgeons at UChicago Medicine developed sternal plating. Rather than securing the breastbone with wires after the procedure, surgeons use small titanium plates to rejoin it. This approach has dramatically decreased the number of patients who develop post-operative infections.