Coronary artery bypass graft surgery complications: A review for emergency clinicians

Tim Montrief, Alex Koyfman, Brit Long

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Introduction: Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery remains a high-risk procedure, and many patients require emergency department (ED) management for complications after surgery. Objective: This narrative review provides an evidence-based summary of the current data for the emergency medicine evaluation and management of post-CABG surgery complications. Discussion: While there has been a recent decline in all cardiac revascularization procedures, there remains over 200,000 CABG surgeries performed in the United States annually, with up to 14% of these patients presenting to the ED within 30 days of discharge with post-operative complications. Risk factors for perioperative mortality and morbidity after CABG surgery can be divided into three categories: patient characteristics, clinician characteristics, and postoperative factors. Emergency physicians will be faced with several postoperative complications, including sternal wound infections, pneumonia, thromboembolic phenomena, graft failure, atrial fibrillation, pulmonary hypertension, pericardial effusion, strokes, renal injury, gastrointestinal insults, and hemodynamic instability. Critical patients should be evaluated in the resuscitation bay, and consultation with the primary surgical team is needed, which improves patient outcomes. This review provides several guiding principles for management of acute complications. Understanding these complications and an approach to the management of hemodynamic instability is essential to optimizing patient care. Conclusions: Postoperative complications of CABG surgery can result in significant morbidity and mortality. Physicians must rapidly diagnose these conditions while evaluating for other diseases. Early surgical consultation is imperative, as is optimizing the patient's hemodynamics, including preload, heart rate, cardiac rhythm, contractility, and afterload.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2289-2297
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • Complication
  • Coronary artery bypass graft surgery
  • Deep space wound infection
  • Graft

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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