Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery (CABG)

  • Medical Author:
    Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI

    Dr. Kulick received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Southern California, School of Medicine. He performed his residency in internal medicine at the Harbor-University of California Los Angeles Medical Center and a fellowship in the section of cardiology at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What are the long-term results after CABG surgery?

A very small percentage of vein grafts may become blocked within the first two weeks after CABG surgery due to blood clotting. Blood clots form in the grafts usually because of small arteries beyond the insertion site of the graft causing sluggish blood run off. Another 10% of vein grafts close off between two weeks and one year after CABG surgery. Use of aspirin to thin the blood has been shown to reduce these later closings by 50%. Grafts become narrowed after the first five years as cells stick to the inner lining and multiply, causing formation of scar tissue (intimal fibrosis) and actual atherosclerosis. After 10 years, only 2/3 of vein grafts are open and 1/2 of these have at least moderate narrowings. Internal mammary grafts have a much higher (90%) 10 year rate of remaining open. This difference in longevity has caused a shift in surgical practices toward greater use of internal mammary and other arteries as opposed to veins for bypasses.

It has been shown that in CABG patients with elevated LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels, use of cholesterol-lowering medications (particularly the statin family of drugs) to lower LDL levels to below 80 will significantly improve long-term graft patency as well as improve survival benefit and heart attack risk. Patients are also advised about the importance of lifestyle changes to lower their chance of developing further atherosclerosis in their coronary arteries. These include stopping smoking, exercise, reducing weight and dietary fat, as well as controlling blood pressure and diabetes. Frequent monitoring of CABG patients with physiologic testing can identify early problems in grafts. PTCA (angioplasty) with stenting, in addition to aggressive risk factor modification, may significantly limit the need for repeat CABG years later. Repeat CABG surgery is occasionally necessary, but may have a higher risk of complication.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/14/2015
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