Narrowing of the coronary arteries by atherosclerosis (fatty deposits, calcium, cholesterol and blood clots) is known as coronary artery disease. This may be chronic and cause symptoms such as chest pain (angina) and breathlessness on exertion; or acute, causing acute myocardial infarction (heart attack).
Coronary artery bypass grafting restores blood flow to the heart muscle by adding a bypass graft (vein or artery) to bypass the blocked area. This surgery is usually done through an incision down the middle of the breast bone, called a median sternotomy, but can occasionally be done through an incision below the nipple on the left side, called a thoracotomy.
You may be connected to a heart lung machine (cardiopulmonary bypass) to maintain blood flow to the rest of the body while your heart is stopped to allow the bypass grafts to be sewn onto the coronary arteries. Alternatively, the bypass grafts may be constructed by stabilising the heart with special instruments while it is still functioning (beating heart surgery). Your surgeon will decide which is the most appropriate technique for you.
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