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What is Double Bypass Surgery?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Double bypass surgery is a form of coronary artery bypass surgery in which two of the coronary arteries are bypassed. It is also possible to see triple or even quadruple bypass surgeries. Although people often think that the more arteries require bypassing, the worse the patient's condition is, this is not necessarily the case.

In coronary artery bypass surgery, the surgeon takes a graft of a vein from somewhere else in the body and uses it to bypass a blockage in one of the coronary arteries. The graft is connected above and below the point of the blockage to provide a new pathway for blood to move through. This surgery is used in patients with conditions like coronary artery disease which lead to blockages of the coronary arteries. Left untreated, such blocks can eventually cause a myocardial infarction or heart attack, which can lead to injury or death for the patient.

Double bypass surgery is performed in an operating room with a team which includes a surgeon, an anesthesiologist, and support nurses. In a so-called “on pump” procedure, the patient is put on a heart-lung machine for the duration of the procedure, under the supervision of a specialized technician, and the surgeon works on a still heart. It is also possible to perform procedures “off pump” in which case the surgeon works on a beating heart. These procedures are more technically challenging, but are sometimes less risky for the patient.

The surgeon takes a length of vein from a location like the leg, arm, or chest. After confirming that the vein selected for grafting is in good condition, the surgeon uses it to bypass a blockage in the first artery, and repeats the process for the second artery to complete a double bypass surgery. Throughout the surgery, the patient is monitored for signs of distress which may indicate that surgical complications are occurring.

After a surgery for narrow arteries or an artery blockage, a patient will usually need to spend some time in the hospital. The patient's condition is monitored and the surgeon confirms that the grafts are taking and that the patient is doing well. Analgesia is also provided since pain levels are sometimes very high after procedures of this nature. Once the patient is stable, he or she can be sent home to rest. Patients can return to normal activities after a double bypass surgery when they have been advised that it is safe by their physicians.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon951661 — On May 17, 2014

My husband is 36 and is scheduled for double bypass surgery in a couple of weeks. He's 36! He had untreated high blood pressure for years, and he was a smoker, but quit entirely two years ago.

His mother died of a heart attack three years ago, in her sleep at age 58.

The doctor said he could be a vegan, never smoked and regular exerciser and he would still have heart disease.

Genetics dictate a lot! We are going to start the DASH diet and get serious about our health. Nothing to motivate us like open heart surgery. Thank you for sharing your stories here. It helps!

By anon232012 — On Nov 28, 2011

My husband will be having double bypass surgery next week. I am so scared and don't know what to expect. He is 62. Does anyone have any suggestions? Thank you and God bless.

By lighth0se33 — On Jul 01, 2011

I experienced the worst kind of pain after my bypass surgery. It was so bad that I trembled and my teeth chattered.

My chest hurt so much when I first became conscious. They had put a pain pump in my chest to numb the incision. However, since they had cut my chest muscles, it hurt even to make the slightest move, like raising my arm.

I did sleep a lot because of all the morphine they gave me during the first few days following the surgery. Then, I had to do breathing treatments. The respiratory therapists said it was necessary to stave off pneumonia.

By cloudel — On Jun 30, 2011

I underwent double bypass surgery and had a vein graft. I was told that they would monitor the blood flow through the graft with ultrasound to make sure it was sufficient.

The vein graft performed fine during the operation and for a couple of years afterward. However, the graft narrowed after the second year. The doctor told me it was because a scar had formed within the graft. I am glad that they told me to go in for vascular tests regularly, because otherwise, I would not have known until it was too late.

They performed an additional vein graft to bypass the narrowed one. I still go in on a regular basis to have this one checked out, but it's been three years, and it's working fine.

By kylee07drg — On Jun 29, 2011

My dad had to have double bypass surgery. Before they placed him on the heart-lung machine, I asked the doctor to describe to me how the machine worked.

He said that blue blood drains by a gravity siphon from the upper heart into a reservoir. That blood is then forced through an artificial lung that exposes it to oxygen. The blood makes direct contact with the surfaces of the machine, which then deliver oxygen gas to it directly.

After the blood has been oxygenated, it turns red and is ready to go back into the body. The heart-lung machine pumps this red blood to the patient via a tube connected to the arteries.

By ShellM89 — On Jun 29, 2011

@BreeZee22 - Wow! I hope his recovery is going well. I remember when my dad had his triple bypass surgery. I was so scared for him.

After surgery he had this huge scar on his chest and another one down his leg where they took the vein out for the bypass. He never had a heart attack; the blockage was found during an examination.

I agree that it is so important to get regular exams and not just assume you are fine.

By BreeZee22 — On Jun 28, 2011

I just think people should know that you don’t have to be in your sixties with high cholesterol to have a heart attack and then need heart bypass surgery.

Earlier this year a good friend of ours, who is only 55, and does not have high cholesterol, had a heart attack. He ended up needing quintuple bypass surgery.

This is someone who takes care of his health. He exercises regularly; and he isn’t overweight. He doesn’t smoke or drink.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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