Treatment for coronary artery disease - the disease process that causes blockages in your heart arteries - is not one-size-fits-all. Your healthcare team will evaluate the extent and location of blockages in your heart arteries, as well as your overall health, before making recommendations about the best heart disease treatment for you.
Your physician may recommend coronary artery bypass graft surgery (also known as “CABG”, or “bypass surgery”) if you have serious heart disease that is causing symptoms such as chest pain (angina), shortness of breath, or fatigue that are preventing you from being active. CABG is sometimes used to treat a heart attack. In both cases, CABG works by restoring blood flow to the heart muscle.
Not all patients with heart disease will be treated with bypass surgery. In some cases, blockages may be treated with minimally invasive angioplasty and stenting. For other patients with coronary artery disease, the treating physician may recommend only medications and lifestyle changes to address risk factors for heart disease.
For some patterns of coronary artery disease, bypass surgery will be the only recommended option. Blockages that, when severe, are commonly treated by coronary artery bypass graft surgery include the following:
- In the left main coronary artery, which supplies most of the blood to the left ventricle (the main pumping chamber of the heart)
- In three or more blood vessels, especially when the patient also has diabetes
- At places where the arteries branch
- In patients with diabetes
Treatment decisions will involve conversations with your physician about benefits and risks of one or more treatment paths and your goals for treatment. Your treating physician will make a recommendation in consultation with you and based on practice guidelines, experience treating patients, and education and training.
For more on why a physician may recommend a particular course of treatment, see Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Undergoing Angioplasty and Stenting or Bypass Surgery.