Heart Bypass Surgery (CABG)

Coronary artery disease narrows, or blocks, the arteries that supply blood to the heart. This condition increases your risk of heart attack and stroke. Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery can significantly lower this risk. Cardiovascular surgeons at the Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Cardiovascular Institute expertly perform this procedure, which bypasses, or goes around, diseased arteries. With a 3-star ranking (the highest possible) from the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS), Allegheny General Hospital (AGH), AHN’s flagship cardiovascular hospital, is one of the best in the nation for bypass surgery. 

What is heart bypass surgery or coronary artery bypass graft (CABG)?

Bypass surgery reroutes blood to the heart around a narrowed or blocked section of artery. During the procedure, your cardiovascular surgeon:

  1. Connects a heart-lung machine (called cardiopulmonary bypass) to your heart to take over the function of pumping blood throughout the body while your heart is still.
  2. Removes a healthy artery or vein from another part of your body (usually the leg or arm).
  3. Attaches the healthy artery to the coronary artery above and below the blocked section.

Bypass surgery generally takes between three to five hours, depending on the condition of the heart.

Bypass surgery relieves pain

Double bypass surgery fixed Donald’s pain and got him back to normal. 

Types of heart bypass surgery or CABG

We perform several types of bypass surgery, including:

Open-heart surgery

During this procedure, the surgeon will open the chest through a small incision to reach the heart. Your surgeon will then choose between performing the surgery on-pump or off-pump. If on-pump, a cardiopulmonary bypass machine will support you by circulating oxygenated blood through your body during the operation. From there, your surgeon will use healthy blood vessels from other areas of the body to bypass the diseased arteries of your heart.

Double, triple, quadruple bypass

Depending on how many arteries are blocked, your doctor will recommend a certain type of bypass surgery. For example, single bypass will be recommended for patients with only one blocked artery.

On-pump bypass surgery

On-pump bypass surgery is the most common method. During the operation, your heart is stopped, and the heart-lung machine is used to circulate oxygen-rich blood to the rest of your body. This is the traditional method for this procedure and a time-honored technique.

Off-pump bypass surgery

Also called “beating heart” surgery, this procedure takes place without the aid of a heart-lung machine. Instead of stopping the heart, your surgeon steadies small portions of it. The heart continues to pump and circulate blood while your surgeon performs bypass surgery.


As with any open-heart surgery, heart bypass surgery has its risks. Complications are rare but may include:

  • Bleeding.
  • Arrythmia.
  • Infection.
  • Kidney failure.
  • Blood clots.
  • Chest pain or discomfort.
  • Stroke or heart attack.

Recovery and life after bypass surgery

After bypass surgery, you can expect to spend a day or two in the intensive care unit. You will also begin cardiac rehab during your hospital stay with an expectation of returning home within a week. You will be expected to recover for six to 12 weeks before returning to your regular activities.

After bypass surgery, many people remain symptom-free for over 10 years. However, it’s possible for another artery or the bypass artery to become clogged over time, requiring another bypass surgery. Your results will partly depend on medication management and your determination to make healthy lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking.

Contact us

No referral

If you do not have a referral for heart bypass surgery, call (412) DOCTORS (412) 362-8677 to schedule an appointment with a general cardiologist to be evaluated.

Scheduling a procedure

If you have a referral for heart bypass surgery, contact the team at the facility where you want to have the procedure completed:

Allegheny General Hospital
320 East North Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(412) 359-8820

Forbes Hospital
2570 Haymaker Road
Monroeville, PA 15146

(412) 858-7088

Jefferson Hospital
565 Coal Valley Road
Jefferson Hills, PA 15025

(412) 469-7900

Saint Vincent Hospital
232 West 25th Street
Erie, PA 16544

(814) 453-7767