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What Is Quadruple Bypass Heart Surgery?

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Updated June 05, 2014

Surgeons performing open heart surgery in modern operating room
Thierry Dosogne/Stone/Getty Images
Question: What Is Quadruple Bypass Heart Surgery?
Answer:

A quadruple bypass is a very serious surgery and a complicated procedure. To fully understand a quadruple bypass, it is essential to understand the anatomy of the heart and effects of heart disease.

The coronary arteries are the blood vessels that supply the heart with its own blood supply; these are different than the vessels that supply the blood pumped by the heart. In some people, the coronary arteries become blocked, a condition known as coronary artery disease. If a blockage is severe, it can prevent blood flow to the part of the heart that is fed by the diseased blood vessel, causing a heart attack. It is possible to have several arteries blocked in this manner, which can pose a significant risk to the heart.

In many cases, coronary artery disease can be treated with medication, lifestyle changes and less invasive procedures. However, for some patients the blockage(s) are so severe that surgery is necessary to make sure the heart continues to receive adequate blood flow. This procedure is known as coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG).

During the surgery, blood vessels are taken from another area of the body, often the leg, and grafted onto the existing heart vessel before and after the blockage. It is not unlike a quick detour your car might take to avoid an accident, with the blood literally being routed around the blocked portion of the vessel.

The number of vessels that are diseased typically dictates the number of grafts that will be performed. If four vessels need to be bypassed, the surgery is referred to as a quadruple bypass because four grafts are performed. If two vessels are bypassed, the surgery is called a double bypass and so on.

Sources:

What Is Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting? National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Accessed 2009. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/cabg/cabg_whatis.html

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