Q&A: Bypass Surgery: Do I Need It?

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Filed Under: Q&As, Heart Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Q&A: Bypass Surgery: Do I Need It?

My doctor has recommended that I have bypass surgery. I'm reluctant to do it, but he's putting tremendous pressure on me. Can you give me some guidelines for when bypass surgery is needed?

 

You need bypass surgery when blocked arteries lead to an unsatisfactory quality of life or a high risk of heart attack. "Unsatisfactory" in this case means frequent bouts of angina; shortness of breath with minimal exertion (often referred to as an anginal equivalent); or the inability to walk up a short flight of stairs, enjoy a game of golf, or play with the grandkids.

A good supplement regimen can help improve these symptoms, but folks whose lives are so limited aren't in a position to wait for the gradual relief that the right supplements and medications will generate. They need to fix their plumbing first and view alternative options as a means to prevent disease from recurring.

If you are one of those patients, ask your doctor if you are a candidate for off-pump coronary artery bypass, or "beating heart" bypass. This procedure is less invasive and eliminates the need for the heart-lung cardiopulmonary machine during surgery. It also reduces many of the common post-operative side effects, and it can significantly shorten hospital stays and recovery time.

Some cardiologists may prefer stents over open heart surgery, but I disagree when more than one stent is required. Surgical patients fare better than stented patients in both the short and long term, especially those who are diabetic. Even multiple bypasses are better than multiple stents. However, I do endorse the use of a single stent if it means you can avoid having your chest opened up.

Amazingly, there are patients who have effective heart function and a good quality of life despite being riddled with coronary artery disease. We look at their angiograms and wonder how they do so well when their vessels look like rosary beads. I take a wait-and-see approach in these situations. Oftentimes, the right combination of supplements and medication can jumpstart improvement.

WATCH: Make Your Bypass Surgery Decision Based on Your Quality of Life


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