Heart bypass surgery refers to a medical procedure that relieves symptoms associated with coronary artery disease (CAD). This condition develops due to the narrowing and/or blocking of one or more arteries, thereby restricting blood flow to the heart.
Blockages occur due to plaque forming on artery walls. According to Robert A. Ronzio, Ph.D., these deposits contribute to stiffened, obstructed arteries and restricted blood flow and play a major role in cardiovascular disease.
Coronary bypass surgery immediately restores blood flow to your heart by bypassing the blocked blood vessels. A surgeon accomplishes this by removing an unobstructed blood vessel from another part of your body such as in the legs or arms and attaching it to the artery in order to reroute the blood around the blocked site.
According to the Mayo Clinic, after surgery, many people find partial or complete relief from the symptoms associated with coronary artery disease such as shortness of breath, rapid or irregular heart beats, and pain in the chest. Nevertheless, even with restored blood flow, you need about three to six months recovery time. Most people remain symptom-free for about 10 to 15 years.
Medical professionals warn that bypass surgery is not a cure for heart disease but merely relieves symptoms by temporarily restoring blood flow. Even after the surgery, you remain susceptible to other arteries as well as the grafted sites becoming blocked.
Nevertheless, various physical, emotional and social factors affect your recovery as well as the forestalling of future problems associated with CAD. According to researcher Daniel L. McMurray, "coronary bypass surgery is not a cure for heart disease, and the individual is advised to attend to the known risk factors of diet, weight, smoking, stress and physical activity.”
Various physical responses to CAD include quitting smoking, eating a heart-healthy diet and following a regular exercise program. In addition, doctors recommend that you treat other contributing factors such as medically controlling blood pressure, managing diabetes and reducing cholesterol.
Psychological responses include reducing your stress levels with such activities as yoga and meditation. For some, surgery triggers emotional suffering associated with depression and anger. If this occurs, you need to consult a professional counselor or your spiritual adviser.
Remember, your family and friends play an important role in your recovery and sustaining your health. According to McMurray, "higher levels of social support following coronary bypass surgery significantly helped the individual to have a better emotional status.”
Due to the nature of the operation, bypass surgery requires the greatest amount of recovery time than any other procedure associated with CAD. Thus, you might want to discuss with your doctor alternatives to bypass surgery such as angioplasty, drug treatments and extreme lifestyle changes.