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Alternatives - Coronary artery bypass graft

It may be possible to have a procedure called a coronary angioplasty instead of a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG). This may be done if the arteries around your heart are severely narrowed.

Coronary angioplasty

During a coronary angioplasty, a long, flexible plastic tube called a catheter is inserted into a blood vessel. This is put into your groin or arm.

The tip of the catheter is guided to the arteries that supply your heart using an x-ray.

A balloon attached to the catheter is inflated to widen the artery. A small metal tube called a stent is often left in the affected section of artery to help keep it open.

It's uncommon for a coronary angioplasty to have serious complications. Heart attacks, strokes and deaths are estimated to occur in less than 1 in 100 cases.

A coronary angioplasty may not be recommended if a lot of coronary arteries have become blocked and narrowed. It may also not be possible if the anatomy of the blood vessels near your heart is abnormal.

Different procedures

You may not always be able to choose between having a coronary angioplasty or a coronary artery bypass graft. But if you are, it's important to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of each technique.

A coronary angioplasty is less invasive. This means you'll recover from the effects of the operation quicker. Coronary angioplasty also usually has a smaller risk of complications. But there's a chance you'll need further treatment. This is because the affected artery may narrow again.

The number of people who need further treatment has fallen in recent years. This is because of the use of special stents coated with medicine (drug-eluting stents). These reduce the risk of the artery narrowing again.

A coronary artery bypass graft has a longer recovery time and a higher risk of complications. But only 1 person in 10 who has a coronary artery bypass graft needs further treatment.

A coronary artery bypass graft is usually a more effective treatment option for people over 65 and for people with diabetes.

If possible, you should discuss the benefits and risks of both types of treatment with your cardiologist before making a decision.


In some cases, it's possible to treat coronary heart disease with different medicines, such as:

  • antiplatelets – to help prevent your blood from clotting and reduce your risk of problems, such as heart attacks
  • statins – to help reduce high cholesterol
  • beta-blockers and nitrates – to help prevent angina and treat high blood pressure

These medicines can help control some of the symptoms of coronary heart disease. They can reduce the risk of the condition getting worse.

A coronary artery bypass graft may be recommended if the condition is severe or there's a particularly high risk of a serious problem. This is because it's a more effective treatment in these cases.

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 10 August 2021
Next review due: 10 August 2024