Heart Bypass: What to know

Ipoh Echo spoke to Dr Ko Chung Sen, the resident consultant for cardiothoracic of KPJ Ipoh Specialist Hospital and discussed the process behind Heart Bypass: the whys and whens one should  do it.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), a total number of 29,363 deaths were reported due to coronary heart diseases in 2014, making heart disease the number one killer in Malaysia.

“When you can no longer perform your usual physical activities because of chest pain or breathlessness, these are the symptoms that could indicate a heart problem. Patients may also get cold sweats and suffer from palpitation: indications that they are at risk of a heart attack,” said Dr Ko.

Tests before surgery

Before suggesting a heart bypass to any patient, doctors will perform several tests to determine the condition of the patient’s heart. It usually starts with an Electocardiogram (ECG), a chest X-Ray, an exercise Stress Test with Echocardiogram and finally an Angiogram which is a procedure where a catheter (thin tube) is threaded through a small puncture in a leg or arm artery to the heart.  An iodine dye is then released which shows the condition in a blood vessel. If there is a blockage in the artery, an Angioplasty is performed whereby a balloon is inflated at the tip of the catheter to flatten the plaque, allowing the artery to be unblocked.

During the surgery

According to Dr Ko, a patient has to go for a heart bypass surgery when they have three blocked arteries that cannot be treated with angioplasty.

The purpose of a heart bypass surgery is to  bypass the blockages in the damaged arteries in the heart. In order to do that, the surgeon will need to use blood vessels from other parts of the body such as the leg or the arm to repair it. During the process that usually takes up to 4 to 5 hours, a patient’s heart will be stopped for up to one hour during which time a Cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) Pump temporarily replaces the function of the heart and lungs.

Post Surgery for patients

In most cases of heart bypass surgery, patients could take up to three months time to recover and it is important for them to take it slowly during this period.

“It is advisable for patients to take things slow on any physical activities. Do some light walking, no heavy-lifting, avoid any emotion-rush and start eating well,” suggests Dr Ko who also encourages everyone to stop taking fast food, sugary drinks and smoking. “These are the important factors that could lead to heart diseases,” he added.

Alternatives for Heart Bypass

Are there other options for heart patients if they decide not to go for the procedure? The answer is, yes.

“Of course heart bypass is the best solution to repair blocked blood vessels, however some patients don’t want and aren’t suitable for the surgery due to their age and health condition. This is when we would suggest either angioplasty with stenting or medical treatment only,” added Dr Ko.

Stents are very advanced nowadays.  These are inserted by cardiologists during Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI). They are now usually coated with drugs (called drug-eluting stents) to prevent recurrent narrowing and improve the long term patency of the arteries.

Taking care of your heart should be your number one priority to live healthier and happier. Book an appointment with Dr Ko Chung Sen via KPJ Hospital Ipoh website at or call 05-2537835 now.

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