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A Kinder Gentler Heart Bypass

Each year, heart surgeons worldwide perform more than 800,000 coronary artery bypass surgeries. This procedure, known as CABG and pronounced “cabbage,” uses blood vessels to “bypass” a blockage and restore normal blood flow to the heart.

The traditional CABG procedure, which was pioneered at Cleveland Clinic in 1967, is very effective and is now performed every day at academic medical centers and community hospitals alike. But with advances in minimally invasive technology over the past decade, many surgeons have wondered if the procedure could be improved. Could it be performed in such a way that offers patients less pain and a shorter recovery?

Mini-CABG

At the Cleveland Clinic Heart & Vascular Institute, Joseph F. Sabik, MD, is now doing exactly that. Dr. Sabik, Chairman of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, performs a “mini” coronary artery bypass through three- to four-inch incisions. The traditional method, by comparison, requires a patient’s breastbone to be split.

“The mini-procedure offers less pain and a hospital stay that’s shorter by about two days,” says Dr. Sabik. In addition, the surgery is most often done without a blood transfusion.

As with the traditional CABG, the mini-procedure uses a healthy artery or vein from the patient’s chest, leg or arm. This graft bypasses the clogged coronary blood vessel to relieve symptoms of coronary artery disease (including angina), enabling the patient to resume a normal lifestyle and lowering the risk of a heart attack or other heart problems.

Who is a candidate?

Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, weighing a patient’s size, coronary artery quality and the number of grafts needed. “Many people can take advantage of this new procedure,” Dr. Sabik says. “For an average person who needs two or three grafts, we can perform the mini-CABG procedure instead.”

While the mini-CABG procedure is impressive in and of itself, Dr. Sabik notes that what is even more exciting is the fact that it is only one of many minimally invasive surgeries, including procedures to repair or replace aortic and mitral valves, being performed at Cleveland Clinic.

“Technology is really coming together. We’re able to perform heart operations better and more safely through smaller incisions than ever before,” he says.

To find out if the mini-CABG procedure is right for you, please call 800.890.2467.