Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School



One percent to 2% of people do not survive bypass surgery. When the operation is performed as an emergency, the death rate is even higher. Your risk depends on the condition of your heart, your age, the severity of other medical problems, and whether you have had a recent heart attack or other heart surgeries.

Other possible complications include:

  • Internal bleeding

  • Heart attack

  • Heart failure

  • Heart-rhythm disturbances

  • Need for a permanent pacemaker

  • Stroke

  • Blood clots

  • Wound infection

  • Pneumonia

  • Respiratory failure

  • Kidney failure

  • Fever and chest pain

  • General risks from anesthesia

There is some concern that people who undergo bypass surgery may experience short- or long-term problems with memory, concentration and depression. Your surgeon will discuss the risks with you. You'll need to sign a consent form to proceed with surgery.

Bypass surgery has been performed for more than 25 years. People in their 80s have had successful surgeries. On rare occasions, it has been performed on people in their 90s.

Here's what you can do to reduce your risk of complications:

  • If you still smoke, stop immediately.

  • If you take aspirin or medications containing aspirin, ask your surgeon if you should stop taking them before surgery.

  • Ask your doctor if you should keep taking your usual medications before surgery.

  • Review your other medical problems and allergies with your doctor.

Your doctor will want you in the best possible condition before surgery. You also want to be sure you receive proper care while in the hospital.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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