Coronary artery bypass
surgery (CABG) is a major heart operation that is carried out on almost 30,000
people each year in the UK alone. This is a planned operation but may be needed
promptly because of the imminent risk of a heart attack, or because the pain of
angina is becoming difficult to cope with. Although often carried out within
the National Health Service (NHS), private heart bypass surgery is becoming
more readily available, particularly in the larger private hospitals in major
Who needs heart bypass surgery?
Cardiovascular disease is
one of the most common chronic diseases of middle age. It is partly due to the
effects of ageing on the blood vessels and heart and partly due to genetics and
environmental factors. People who eat a lot of fatty and sugary food
(takeaways, chips, burgers and chocolate, for example) and do very little
exercise tend to develop atherosclerosis, whether or not they gain weight and
look unhealthy from the outside.
fatty plaques to build up inside the walls of the arteries, which then harden
and also narrow. Blood is less able to pass through the arteries as freely as
it once did, and the tissues supplied by the affected blood vessels can get
short of oxygen. When this happens in the coronary arteries, the blood vessels
that feed the heart muscle, it causes the pain of angina. If the vessel becomes
blocked by a blood clot, this stops the blood supply altogether, causing a
Heart bypass surgery is
done to relieve the pain of angina and to reduce the risk of a heart attack. It
is therefore recommended for anyone who has severe angina, and anyone whose
coronary arteries have narrowings, as shown by an imaging test called an
What happens during heart bypass surgery?
The aim of heart bypass
surgery is to replace the diseased coronary arteries with pieces of healthy
artery that are taken from elsewhere in the body, usually the legs. Bypass
surgery is now almost routine but it is a major procedure as the heart has to
be stopped to allow the cardiac surgeon to attach the new blood vessels. This
means that a heart and lung machine, operated by a specialist perfusionist,
must be used to make sure the blood supply to the rest of the body is kept as
normal as possible.
An incision is made in the
chest, along the length of the breastbone, and the ribcage is opened to allow
access to the heart. The blood vessels are attached in several places and the
number of vessels used is indicated in the name given to the operation. In a
quadruple heart bypass, for example, four separate vessels are used to boost
the blood supply to the heart muscle, taking over the job of the coronary
Options for private heart bypass surgery in the UK
Since heart bypass surgery
is a major operation that requires at least a short stay in an intensive care
unit, it can only be done with private hospitals that have both an intensive
care facility and the cardiology expertise and operating theatres necessary.
Most of the smaller private hospitals around the UK can offer cardiac
assessment but if you want to go privately for your heart operation, you will
need to look at the larger private hospitals, or at private wings of NHS
hospitals that specialise in cardiology.
Four of the largest
centres for private heart bypass surgery are:
Private heart bypass surgery at Papworth Hospital,
Cambridgeshire: the Papworth Clinic
is the private patient’s centre at this major heart hospital and it offers CABG
and other heart procedures to patients who are self-pay, insured through
private medical insurance, or who are sponsored by their employer or by a
foreign embassy (all international patients must have a private heart bypass as
they are not eligible for NHS treatment).
Private cardiac bypass surgery at London Bridge
Hospital, London: this large private
hospital in central London has an established cardiothoracic unit with 26
private rooms dedicated to cardiac interventions and heart surgery, including
bypass surgery. Its eight cardiac surgeons are supported by a team of ten
consultant anaesthetists with considerable experience of heart surgery, and by
intensive care facilities.
Private care for heart surgery at Cromwell Hospital,
London: this private hospital, run by
BUPA, has advanced diagnostic facilities, including an angiography suite that
is equipped with 3D imaging. The expert surgeons offer heart bypass surgery
with an open operation and heart and lung machine support, and a minimally
invasive heart bypass surgery technique, which does not require the heart to be
Specialist cardiac care at the private Spire Hospital
in Southampton: over 600 heart
operations are carried out each year by a team of cardiothoracic surgeons.
Private heart bypass surgery is available, as is heart valve repair, and replacement
of heart valves with mechanical prostheses.