Your health and safety is our top priority. Get COVID-19 & vaccine information and see our visitor policy.

Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG) Surgery


Coronary Bypass Surgery: Preventing Heart Attack

When you experience chest pain, blood clots or even a heart attack due to blocked arteries, it can be frightening. All you want is your heart to get back to working the way it should – and we’re here to help.

Our experienced heart surgeons perform coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG), pronounced like “cabbage,” to treat coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD is the buildup of plaque (cholesterol and other fatty substances) in the heart’s arteries. This buildup can restrict blood flow to the heart and lead to angina (chest pain) and heart attack.

CABG may lower your risk of having a heart attack. It helps many people live without heart symptoms for 10 to 15 years after surgery. And at Aurora Health Care, we perform nearly 1,000 CABG procedures every year, with excellent results.

World-Class Care

A Legacy of Innovation in Coronary Bypass Surgery

We provide the vast majority of Wisconsin’s coronary bypass surgeries – nearly three times as many as other local hospitals, in 2015. People choose Aurora Health Care because of our legacy of excellence, including:

  • Outstanding results: Our success rates for CABG surgery are excellent. People who come to us for CABG very rarely have complications such as deep infection or stroke after surgery, according to the results that we voluntarily report to the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality. These results are especially impressive because we treat people who have the most serious conditions. Read more about our accomplishments.
  • Highly ranked surgical quality: We have achieved the Society of Thoracic Surgeons’ 3-star rating for CABG and valve surgeries, the highest quality category. Only the top 12% to 15% of hospitals achieve this rating. Meet our cardiovascular and thoracic team.
  • Collaborative care: Our providers work together as a team, and we never forget that you’re at the heart of that team. You’ll meet with the surgeon and cardiologist before decisions about the best treatment for you are made. Your care may include surgery or PCI (percutaneous coronary intervention), also known as angioplasty, a less-invasive treatment offered by our interventional cardiology department.
  • History of innovation: When coronary bypass surgery was first developed, surgeons used a different procedure. A surgeon at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center first devised the method of attaching the grafted blood vessel to the aorta to ensure better blood flow – the method that is used as standard practice today. Read more about our world-class care.
  • Convenient locations: Most people have their CABG surgery at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee. We also offer coronary bypass surgery at three of our locations in eastern Wisconsin:

What Is CABG?

Understanding Coronary Bypass Surgery

Coronary artery bypass grafting is open heart surgery. It is the most common type of open heart surgery in the U.S.

For people with CAD, coronary bypass surgery makes a new path for blood to flow when the coronary arteries become blocked. These arteries are the main blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to your heart muscle.

If you have CAD in more than one coronary artery, our surgeons can bypass multiple arteries during one surgical procedure.

What Causes Blocked Arteries?

Coronary artery disease results from plaque (fatty deposits including cholesterol, fat, calcium and other substances) building up in the heart’s arteries.

Plaque develops as a result of damage to the inner layers of coronary arteries caused by:

  • Abnormally high blood sugar levels due to diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Inflammation in the coronary arteries
  • Smoking

Over time, the coronary arteries harden and narrow, causing chest pain. If the plaque ruptures, blood clots can form at the injury site. A large clot can partially or completely block a heart artery, causing a heart attack.

Read more about the heart and vascular conditions we treat.

What to Expect

What to Expect From the CABG Procedure

Traditional CABG surgery is an open heart surgery, in which surgeons open the chest and breastbone to access the heart. The surgery takes a few hours, and people usually return home within a week.

The Procedure

In CABG surgery, the surgeon creates a new path for blood to reach your heart. To complete the bypass, the surgeon:

  1. Removes a portion of a healthy vein or artery from another part of the body, such as the leg, chest or wrist
  2. Grafts (attaches) the new blood vessel to the coronary artery above and below the blockage. This new pathway lets blood flow normally to your heart again
  3. Checks to make sure blood is flowing freely to the heart

Doctors can bypass one artery or multiple arteries during the same procedure.

Read more details about open heart surgery.

Recovering From CABG Surgery

In most cases, the surgery takes three to five hours. Afterward, you’ll recover in our intensive care unit (ICU).

A few days after surgery, your doctor will remove your chest drainage tubes and temporary pacing wires. Most people go home in four to six days.

As with all types of heart surgery, we recommend that you attend cardiac rehabilitation to regain your strength. We offer cardiac rehab at locations throughout eastern Wisconsin. Find out more about cardiac rehabilitation.

Alternatives to CABG

Depending on your individual situation, we may be able to manage artery blockages in other ways. Alternative treatments include:

  • Robotic surgery: Our surgeons use a robotic system to make tiny, precise movements through a very small incision. Aurora is one of the world’s top robotic heart centers.
  • Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI): PCI is also known as coronary angioplasty, a type of cardiac catheterization procedure. We perform this minimally invasive procedure in our cath labs or hybrid rooms. A doctor threads a catheter, or fine tube, through the blood vessels to clear blockages in the heart. Learn more about cardiac catheterization.
  • Off-pump CABG: This alternative to traditional open heart surgery doesn’t require surgeons to stop the heart.
  • Keyhole surgery: This CABG procedure can be done through a very small incision.

Coronary Artery Bypass Procedure

To make an appointment or get more information, please call:


Vaccine Update

We're vaccinating anyone 12 and older in Illinois and Wisconsin. Schedule an appointment or walk in at select vaccine centers.

Get a Second  Opinion

Knowing all your options can make life's toughest decisions a little easier.

Make a Heartfelt Gift

You can impact lives and help transform cardiovascular care.

LiveWell app  & website

Manage health and wellness for yourself and for everyone who counts on you – anytime, anywhere.