What Is CABG Nursing?

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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2019
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Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) nursing specializes in caring for patients before and after major heart surgery. CABG nursing includes educating patients and their families about open heart surgery and explaining what happens during the procedure and in recovery. Immediately after bypass surgery, nursing care includes intensive monitoring of the patients' breathing and heart functions, and other signs of complications.

Before the operation, nurses commonly meet with the patient and family members to provide details about the surgery and answer questions. CABG nursing includes addressing fear and anxiety typically associated with major heart surgery. Nurses commonly explain how they will care for the patient throughout the process and what the recovery process entails.

Health-care workers who specialize in coronary nursing sometimes assist in the operating room during the surgery. Others perform duties related to pre-operative and post-operative care only. Professionals employed in CABG nursing units are trained in medical procedures and equipment used during open-heart surgery. They are familiar with the various medications used during the operation and possible complications from these drugs in the recovery room.

Comprehensive CABG nursing occurs immediately after cardiac bypass surgery, usually in a cardiac intensive care unit. These nurses monitor the patient’s breathing, heart rate, pain, and neurological responses. They also watch for internal or external bleeding that might indicate an emergency situation. CABG nursing involves almost constant evaluation of a patient in the immediate hours after surgery. It can represent a demanding and stressful job.


Heart surgery patients are intubated during surgery to allow breathing during the operation and until anesthesia wears off. CABG nursing duties include watching the patient afterward for any respiratory trouble. The nurse checks the patient’s oxygen levels frequently and helps wean the patient off the ventilator. He or she must adjust pain medication to control discomfort without depressing the patient’s ability to breathe.

Blood pressure and heart rate are critical during the hours immediately after open heart surgery. Nurses specializing in CABG nursing might use medication to relieve pressure on newly grafted arteries. They also watch for stroke, which is a complication of this type of surgery. Nurses check the patient’s pupils and conduct sensory assessments in the recovery room.

They also measure urine output to ensure the patient gets enough fluids via intravenous solutions. During and after major heart surgery, patients use a catheter that typically remains in place until the patient is able to walk to a bathroom. If urine output is too low, nurses make adjustments in the amount of fluid going to the patient.

CABG nursing also involves wound care of incisions and around chest tubes that permit drainage. The nurse monitors healing and watches for signs of infection or inflammation in the chest area and near sutures in the vein donation site, commonly the leg. He or she also checks the patient’s blood cell count and orders medication as needed.


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