How long do cardiac bypasses last?

It's been 12 year since  my bypass operation, and the arteries were removed from my right leg, what I would  like to know is how long do they last before they need to be  replaced?  Thanks, Ed

Hi Ed,

Your bypass was done using veins from your leg, not arteries:


How long they last depends on many factors that include whether your coronary artery disease has progressed. Remember a bypass operation is not a cure!

Neither stents nor coronary artery bypass surgery treat atherosclerosis, the disease process that causes coronary artery disease with obstructive blockages. That means you may be developing new obstructions elsewhere, even after a successful intervention.

That said, there is about a 10-15% failure rate of stents to stay open and more than 40% of patients with a stent will need another procedure within a year, despite the use of expensive medications. This is in sharp contrast with a bypass operation that has a >95% success rate.  While stents are more or less successful as treatment of anginal symptoms, they do not protect against future heart attacks or prolong life, again as opposed to bypass surgery.

If you have coronary artery disease, it is important to choose the right treatment that should in all cases include Neither stents nor coronary artery bypass surgery treat atherosclerosis, the disease process that causes coronary artery disease  (diet & exercise) and medications that include cholesterol meds (the only way presently to stop progression of atherosclerosis – a process that will take years). It has been shown that in most patients with stable symptoms, this last option, called “Optimal Medical Therapy”, is actually a better treatment option than Stenting.

Patients with extensive (“3 vessel”) disease that may include a “Left main stenosis”, diminished heart function and/or Diabetes do much better with a bypass operation. In situations where time is of the essence, such as an acute heart attack, a stent is may the best option if the priocedure is performed quickly enough. The same is probably also true for patients with only “one or two” vessel disease, although there are mini bypass operations that offer an equal if not superior treatment because it promises a much better long term protection.

Hope this helps,

Dr T



Dr T

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