Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery: Your Medical Team

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Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery: Your Medical Team

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A team of surgeons, nurses, and other medical staff will participate in your coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery. Each team member has a specific set of responsibilities before, during, and after the procedure.

CABG surgery is a complex operation that involves a great deal of technical expertise and precision. The medical professionals in the operating room during your surgery will be specially trained in performing the CABG procedure. In addition, your medical team will probably have worked together as a team many times in the past.

Though the exact composition will differ at particular hospitals, the medical team that performs a CABG surgery is roughly similar at all institutions:

  • Surgical team: Your cardiac surgeon or surgeons and a surgical assistant will perform your CABG procedure.
  • Anesthesiology team: Your anesthesiologist will give and monitor your anesthesia, medications, and vital signs during the surgery.
  • Nursing team: Specially trained nurses will assist the surgical team.
  • Perfusionist: A certified medical technician monitors the heart-lung bypass machine.

Surgical team

You will likely first meet your cardiac surgeon at his or her office where you will discuss specific aspects of your CABG surgery. Many hospitals require that two cardiac surgeons perform this kind of surgery. Cardiac surgeons lead the procedure and are responsible for performing its most intricate parts. Specifically, your surgeon will handle your heart and blood vessels, graft the new blood vessels to your coronary arteries, and oversee all the other parts of the surgery.

All surgeries also have a surgical assistant, who is typically responsible for harvesting the blood vessels that will be used as graft material as well as assisting the surgeon with opening and closing your chest and sewing (suturing) your incision after surgery. The surgical assistant is also the individual who will most regularly check on your progress as you recover.

Anesthesiology team

You will probably meet one or more members of your anesthesia team the evening before and the day of your surgery.

Your anesthesia team will give you the proper dose of general anesthesia so that you are unconscious during the operation.

Additionally, the team will monitor your vital signs and correct any changes in your blood pressure, heart rhythm, or blood oxygen levels with adjustments to the anesthesia and medications you are receiving.

This team will keep you comfortable during the procedure by treating any pain associated with your CABG surgery. The team will give you medications through a tube inserted into a vein (intravenous, or IV).

Your anesthesia team is also responsible for making sure that you receive enough medication to control your pain after your surgery.

In the hours that follow surgery, a respiratory therapist will work with the anesthesia team and your surgeon to monitor your breathing to make sure that you continue to receive enough oxygen through your ventilator. Your respiratory therapist will also help you come off the ventilator as soon as possible.

Nursing team

The nursing team is made up of several nurses with special training in CABG surgery. The nurses prepare you for the surgery and assist the anesthesia team in your care during the procedure. Also, they ensure that appropriate instruments are available and assist the surgeon with the handling of the instruments.


The perfusionist, a certified medical technician responsible for monitoring the heart-lung bypass machine, makes sure that the machine is correctly performing the jobs of your heart and lungs during your CABG surgery.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer John A. McPherson, MD, FACC, FSCAI - Cardiology
Last Revised August 12, 2010

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