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URMC / URMC Cardiology / Patient Care / Treatments and Procedures / Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting

Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting

What it’s for

Like any other muscle in your body, your heart requires blood in order to work. It gets the blood it needs from your coronary arteries.

A coronary artery bypass graft, or bypass surgery, is for patients who have blockages or severe narrowing in the arteries that supply the heart. A blood vessel is taken from another part of your body and is used to go around—or bypass—the blocked artery. This restores blood flow to your heart.

If you have one or two blockages, you may be treated with angioplasty and the placement of stents. Patients who have more blockages are typically treated with coronary artery bypass grafts.

How it’s done

A coronary artery bypass graft is major surgery that requires general anesthesia. The surgery takes from 4-8 hours.

An incision is made down the front of your chest. Your chest is then opened up to expose your heart. At this point, your heart is temporarily stopped while a heart lung machine takes over the task of circulating blood through your body.

A healthy section of blood vessel is taken from another part of your body, typically from your leg or from inside your chest wall. This blood vessel is then attached—or grafted—on to your coronary artery, bypassing the blockage and restoring blood flow.

After the grafts are completed, the heart lung machine is turned off and your heart goes back to pumping normally. Your incision is then closed.

Patients who have bypass surgery typically stay in the ICU for one or two days, and then in a step-down unit for 3-5 more days.


There are several risks of coronary artery bypass surgery. They include the following:

  • Internal bleeding
  • Infection
  • Stroke
  • Kidney failure
  • Need for repeat surgery
  • Heart rhythm problems
  • Memory loss
  • Death

Technology and expertise at URMC

The University of Rochester Medical Center is a referral center for the most complex heart surgeries. This means that other hospitals in the area send their most challenging cases to us.

When needed, URMC surgeons are able to provide our patients with off-pump surgery—surgery that does not involve the heart lung machine. In this procedure, the patient’s heart continues to pump while just a portion of the heart is kept stationary during surgery. 

Off-pump surgery may be particularly beneficial to some patients. Some evidence suggests that off-pump surgery may result in few complications and better outcomes.

URMC is also active in providing less invasive approaches to bypass surgery. Through endoscopic vein harvesting, we are able to remove veins that will be used for the bypass through small incisions that heal faster. We also provide minimally-invasive bypass surgery which uses a smaller incision in your chest. This helps to speed healing and recovery.

View our heart surgery video.

Who to contact

For more information on bypass surgery at URMC, contact us at (585) 275-5384.