Skip to Content

Coronary Artery Bypass Graft


  • Coronary artery bypass graft surgery is also called open heart surgery, or CABG. A CABG is done to open up blocked arteries in your heart. An artery is a blood vessel (tube) that carries blood with oxygen through your body. Parts of your heart may not get enough blood if an artery is blocked. When one or more of these arteries is blocked, you may have a heart attack. You may have mild to severe chest pain and a hard time doing daily activities such as climbing stairs or walking.
  • CABG surgery can improve blood flow to the heart by bypassing (sending blood around) the blocked part of an artery. During surgery, a blood vessel from another part of your body is used to bypass the blocked artery. This bypass may restore blood flow to your heart muscle. The healthy blood vessel may be taken from your leg or chest and is called a graft. After CABG surgery, you will need to make some lifestyle changes. These changes include eating healthy and low fat foods, exercising, and quitting smoking. It may take six weeks, or more, for you to return to your usual activities. Having a CABG may relieve your chest pain and prevent heart problems such as a heart attack.
    Picture of a heart with a coronary artery bypass graft



  • Keep a current list of your medicines: Include the amounts, and when, how, and why you take them. Take the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists. Use vitamins, herbs, or food supplements only as directed.
  • Take your medicine as directed: Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not working as expected. Tell him about any medicine allergies, and if you want to quit taking or change your medicine.
  • Aspirin: You may need to take an aspirin a day to help prevent heart problems. Aspirin helps to prevent blood clots from forming and causing blood flow problems in the heart. If caregivers want you to take aspirin daily, do not take acetaminophen or ibuprofen instead. Do not take more or less aspirin than caregivers say to take. If you are on other blood thinner medicine, ask your caregiver before you take aspirin for any reason.
  • Cholesterol medicine: This type of medicine is given to help decrease (lower) the amount of cholesterol (fat) in your blood. Cholesterol medicine works best if you also exercise and eat a healthy diet that is low in certain kinds of fats. Some cholesterol medicines may cause liver problems. You may need to have blood taken for tests while using this medicine.
  • Heart medicine: This medicine is given to strengthen or regulate your heartbeat. It also may help your heart in other ways. Talk with your caregiver to find out what your heart medicine is and why you are taking it.
  • Pain medicine: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.
    • Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.

Activity guidelines:

Talk to your caregiver about what activities you can and cannot do. Do not lift heavy objects after surgery. As you get further from surgery, you can do more. You may be able to return to work after six weeks. It may take up to three months to fully recover and return to your usual activities.

  • Cardiac rehabilitation: Cardiac rehabilitation, or cardiac rehab, is a program that helps you feel better after having a heart problem. Cardiac rehab may also decrease your risk of having heart problems in the future. During cardiac rehab, you learn how to live a more heart-healthy lifestyle. You may also learn how to exercise safely to strengthen your muscles and heart.

Check your blood sugar:

If you have diabetes, check your blood sugar level often. Keep your blood sugar in the range suggested by your caregiver. Do this by managing your diet, getting exercise, and taking your medicine as ordered. Ask caregivers if you should make changes to your diet, exercise, or medicines.


  • Eat a variety of healthy foods every day. Your diet should include fruits, vegetables, breads, dairy products, and protein (such as chicken, fish, and beans). Eating healthy foods may help you feel better and have more energy. Ask your caregiver if you should be on a special diet. You may be told to eat foods that are low in fat or cholesterol. You may also be told to limit the amount of salt you eat. Special cookbooks can make it easier to plan low fat and low salt meals.
  • Ask your caregiver how much liquid you should have each day. Good choices for most people to drink include water, juice, and milk. If you drink liquids that contain caffeine, such as coffee, they can also be counted in your daily liquid amount. Ask your caregiver if you need to limit or avoid caffeine. Some food items, such as soup and fruit, also add liquid to your diet.

Wound care:

Cover your bandages with plastic wrap or a plastic bag when bathing. If your bandages get wet, replace them with dry bandages. Follow your caregiver's instructions about how to care for your wounds.


  • You have a fever (increased body temperature) higher than 101°F (38.4°C).
  • You have a very bad headache.
  • You have gained two to three pounds in a day.
  • Your blood sugar is higher than 200 more than three times.
  • The skin around your incisions is red, warm, swollen, or has pus coming from it.
  • You have questions or concerns about your surgery or medicine.


  • You feel your heart beating very fast and you notice the rhythm flutters.
  • You have numbness or tingling in your arms or legs.
  • You lose consciousness (pass out or faint).
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • You have chest pain or trouble breathing that is getting worse over time.
  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and have trouble breathing.
  • You have new and sudden chest pain. You may have more pain when you take deep breaths or cough. You may cough up blood.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (Aftercare Instructions)

Micromedex® Care Notes