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Complications of Triple Bypass Surgery

author image Adam Cloe Ph.D./M.D.
Adam Cloe has been published in various scientific journals, including the "Journal of Biochemistry." He is currently a pathology resident at the University of Chicago. Cloe holds a Bachelor of Arts in biochemistry from Boston University, a M.D. from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in pathology from the University of Chicago.
Complications of Triple Bypass Surgery
A man in a hospital bed gets a visit from his wife and grandsons. Photo Credit: Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

The coronary arteries are responsible for providing blood to the heart. If the arteries become narrowed or blocked, patients may require bypass surgery, which replaces the diseased artery with a graft. A triple bypass surgery involves bypassing three coronary arteries. All forms of heart surgery carry with them the risk of serious complications.

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Surgical Site

Infection is one of the more prominent complications that can occur after triple bypass surgery, according to the Mayo Clinic. The incision site is the area of the body that is most commonly infected after surgery. Patients should take steps to keep the surgical incision clean and protected after surgery. The surgical incision can also bleed or bruise.

Anesthesia Reactions

Some patients do not react well to the anesthesia that is used for a triple bypass operation, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Because of the severity of a triple bypass, patients will be put under general anesthesia for the surgery. In some cases, general anesthesia can cause patients to go into shock or experience cardiovascular collapse.

Blood Clots

Patients receiving triple bypass surgery will need a machine called a heart-lung bypass. These machines route blood away from the heart and the lungs to allow surgeons to work on the heart. Instead, the oxygenation and pumping of the blood is handled by a machine. These machines can cause blood clots in the circulatory system. If these blood clots travel to the heart, they can result in a heart attack, according to the Society of Thoracic Surgeons. Blood clots can also migrate to the arteries in the brain, resulting in a stroke.

Heart Sac Inflammation

Triple bypass surgery requires that surgeons cut through a layer of tissue around the heart, known as the pericardium. One to six weeks after the procedure, the tissue around the heart and lungs can become irritated and inflamed. This can result in pain, decreased appetite and irritability, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. On occasion, fluid can accumulate around the heart, requiring surgical treatment.

Kidney Failure

The kidneys can become permanently damaged during a triple bypass operation, according to the Society of Thoracic Surgeons. Severe kidney damage can result in kidney failure, which will require either dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Mental Problems

After a triple bypass, patients often experience some memory loss or have problems with thinking clearly. These symptoms usually go away within six to 12 months. This is more common in older patients, in patients with high blood pressure or lung disease and in patients who consume large quantities of alcohol.

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