Double Bypass Surgery

In order to know what a double bypass surgery is and how it works, you must first understand that while heart pumps blood to the entire body, it receives its own blood supply from the coronary arteries. A severely blocked coronary artery leads to a complete obstruction in the blood flow to the heart, eventually resulting in an infarction or in simple words a heart attack.

Mild to moderate coronary artery blockages may be managed by dietary changes, lifestyle modifications and medications, but for people suffering with severe blockages, a bypass surgery may be an absolute necessity to ensure adequate blood supply to the heart muscle.

What Is Double Bypass Surgery?

This common but high-risk open-chest surgery involves repairing two of the blocked arteries. It is performed under general anesthesia and may last anywhere between 3-6 hours. During the surgery, an incision is made in the middle or side of the chest, the breastbone is cut through and rib cage is spread apart, exposing the heart. Doctor removes two healthy blood vessels (mostly from legs) and grafts them to the blocked arteries bypassing the blood flow to heart muscle. At last, doctor will put the ribcage back together with wires and apply stitches to close the incision.

So, a double bypass surgery is a term used when two grafts are required to bypass the blood flow. People may require double, triple or a quadruple bypass surgery and the number of grafts depends on number of artery blocked and the exact location of the blocked vessel.

To understand how a bypass surgery is done, watch the following video: 

Are There Any Risks?

Pretty much like all bypass surgeries, double bypass surgery also has risks and complications. Other than the risks like bleeding and infection which are associated with all surgeries, this surgery carries the following risks:

  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Arrhythmias
  • Kidney failure
  • Lung failure
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Chest wound infection, especially in obese people, diabetics and people with a history of a similar surgery
  • Post-pericardiotomy syndrome lasting up to 6 months, causing low-grade fever, chest pain and tiredness
  • Loss of mental clarity and memory loss (mostly improve within 6-12 months)

There are fair chances of developing complications if the procedure is done in emergency or in presence of emphysema, kidney disease, diabetes or peripheral artery disease (PAD).

How to Recover from Bypass Surgery

While a double bypass surgery or any bypass surgery may successfully bypass the blood flow to the heart muscle, it is not the ultimate treatment for heart diseases. Lifestyle and dietary changes play a vital role in recovering from the surgery and maintaining the overall health of the heart. Here are some main suggestions for you:

1. In Hospital

With no post-surgical complications, an ICU stay would last 1-2 days only and the patient will undergo:

  • Continuous measuring of heart activity
  • A tube used to help in breathing
  • A stomach tube used to remove stomach secretions
  • A catheter or tube used to drain your bladder and monitor urine output
  • IV line to provide you with fluids, medicines and nutrition
  • Arterial line used to monitor blood pressure
  • A chest tube to drain blood and fluids in your chest cavity

Once shifted from ICU to the normal ward, patient is required to stay for 3-8 days in hospital, this duration depends on your health before surgery and whether you develop complications or not.

2. At Home

Once you are discharged, you may take 4-6 weeks to recover at home. During this phase, driving and exercise should be avoided for 2-3 weeks. Patients can continue working after 1-2 months, again depending on the amount of activity required. For up to a year after surgery, one may be very sensitive and have amplified emotions, for example, having tendency to cry which is unusual before the surgery. Recovery may involve physical therapy, respiratory therapy, occupational therapy, diet counseling and cardiac rehabilitation.

3. Precautions

With double bypass surgery or any types of surgeries, you have to take precautionary measures to ensure the arteries stay open for a longer duration so as to enjoy a healthier life. You should quit smoking, exercise regularly, maintain proper eating habits and routine, change unhealthy lifestyle and take medicines like drugs for angina, hypertensive and lowering cholesterol regularly.

Watch the video to know when to leave hospital, what activities can be done and long-term cares, etc. to enjoy a high-quality life after surgery:

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