You've heard of a double bypass...or maybe even a triple bypass! But have you seen coronary artery bypass (CABG) surgery in action? Well check that one off my list! I feel like I need a t- shirt "I survived open heart surgery viewing".

Along with my fellow dietetic interns, I trekked to Inova Fairfax at 7 am to see CABG performed in the 'dome' (seen below). The dome experience is open to the public as a learning tool for heart health. You can see the surgery from start to finish,bone saw and stitches included, over about a 3-4 hour time frame with the charge nurse as your guide.

Why does a patient have CABG surgery done?

Based on genetics and diet your arteries may have plaque build up. This can block

blood that goes to your heart, possibly leading to a heart attack.  With the surgery, bypasses are made for the blood to ultimately improve oxygenation of the heart.

How is a coronary bypass done?

Part of a healthy blood vessel from the patient is used to make a detour around the blocked or injured artery. The vein can be from the leg or another area of the body. While the heart is being worked on a heart and lung machine is used in place of the actual heart! This machine is run by a perfusionist, who actually came up stairs to talk with us and answer questions.

There were about 8 different medical staff members in the surgery room doing various things: anesthesiology, a nurse to keep track of what objects enter the patient's body (don't want to leave anything behind now do we?), the MD and more.

What can a dietitian do?

First, a RD can help patients PREVENT plauque build up with a healthy diet. And for that you can come see me in May. : )   But for now think about these easy tips:

  • Pick whole grains over refined ones.
  • Make it mostly veggies.
  • Go for whole fruits...not fruit juices with added sugar!
  • Eat heart healthy fats: Omega 3 fatty acids come from things like salmon and walnuts.
  • Try vegetarian, or at least "Meatless Monday" to reduce saturated fat intake.

After the surgery however, a patient undergoes cardiac rehab. A dietitian will advise them to reduce saturated fat intake and eliminate trans fats 100%. Remember, these types of fats make plaque really build up because of their chemical structure.

Would you go see open heart surgery? >