Coronary artery bypass grafting or "CABG" (often pronounced "cabbage") is the most commonly performed "open heart" operation in the United States. Performed at Community Howard Regional Health by Dr. Michael Koelsch and his experienced surgical team, the procedure bypasses blockages or obstructions of the coronary arteries. These are the blood vessels that supply the heart with oxygen and nutrients. The heart relies on these fuels as it works constantly to pump blood through the body. The heart never rests like the other muscles in the body, and it demands a constant supply of fuel day and night. The term ischemic heart disease refers to the condition when the heart does not get these fuels. When the heart is sufficiently ischemic (when the shortage of fuel is critical enough), the muscle begins to die. This is a heart attack or myocardial infarction.
What can happen when arteries are blocked
When there are blockages of the arteries to the heart, an individual may experience chest pain or angina pectoris or ultimately even a heart attack or myocardial infarction. In some cases, particularly in individuals with diabetes mellitus, angina may be absent or infarctions "silent." A heart attack may be the first sign of coronary artery disease in many patients, and an electrocardiogram (EKG) may be normal - even in the presence of coronary artery disease - if you have not yet had a heart attack.
You or your doctor may be suspicious of coronary artery disease if you have suggestive symptoms, multiple risk factors, and/or a strong family history of coronary artery disease. Risk factors include male sex, high blood cholesterol, diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure and cigarette smoking. The presence of coronary artery disease is most often confirmed by a noninvasive stress test or by cardiac catheterization. A stress test is performed on a treadmill with monitoring by electrocardiogram or echocardiography. It can often be performed as an outpatient. A cardiac catheterization study is an invasive test in which a small tube or catheter is passed through the artery in the groin or arm to the heart, and contrast medium or "dye" is injected into the coronary arteries. X-ray pictures are taken which can show the obstructions present.
Once coronary artery disease is diagnosed, there are a number of treatment options including medicines, angioplasty and surgery.