In cardiac bypass surgery, the patient's chest is opened, exposing the heart. The patient is put on a heart-lung machine that continues to pump blood though the body as the operation is done. The operation itself involves taking vein segments from the patient's leg and using them to replace blocked coronary arteries.
In contrast, angioplasty, a minimally invasive procedure, involves passing a catheter from the patient's groin into the blocked heart artery. A balloon at the tip of the catheter opens to expand the blocked artery. To ensure the artery remains open, a stent is placed in the artery. Drug-eluting stents are coated with a drug that promotes healing and helps prevent the stent from becoming blocked again.
For more information on heart surgery, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Gregg C. Fonarow, M.D., professor, cardiology, University of California, Los Angeles; Byron Lee, M.D., associate professor, cardiology, University of California San Francisco; Nov. 25, 2009, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, online