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Open heart surgery, or coronary artery bypass surgery, is performed when the narrowings in the coronary arteries are too severe to be treated with angioplasty and stenting, and when medical treatment alone fails to control symptoms. Despite being a major operation, it is also performed routinely and in large numbers and therefore the risk of complications is low.
It involves a general anaesthetic and your heart is then usually connected to a heart-lung bypass machine whilst the surgeon performs the operation using vessels obtained from either the legs or the arms to bypass the blockages in your coronary arteries. Recovery takes a few days and you will helped with the additional input of the physiotherapy team and cardiac rehabilitation team.
You will be assessed to gauge the risks and benefits of doing the procedure and this will normally involve several additional tests such as coronary angiography, echocardiography, blood tests and in some cases scanning of the vessels that supply your brain and the assessing the function of your lungs.