Golden Girl Rue McClanahan Undergoes Bypass Surgery

Actress Rue McClanahan, best known for playing the saucy Blanche Devereaux on Golden Girls, is recovering well from coronary artery bypass surgery. The heart disease was diagnosed when the actress had gone to her doctor about a knee problem. McClanahan has been working on a tribute show at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco. The actress said: “Unfortunately, my doctor has laid down the law, and I’m currently in the hospital having some maintenance on the old ticker,” she said. “Trust me, I’d much rather be in San Francisco having fun and being adored by all of you.”

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common kind of heart disease. It is the leading cause of death in the United States. It occurs when the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart muscle itself (the coronary arteries) become narrowed by a build up of plaque. Plaque is made up of cholesterol, fat, calcium and other substances from the blood. With narrowing of the arteries comes a decrease in blood supply to the heart muscle. This can lead to the symptoms of chest pain (angina) or even heart attack if the narrowing is severe enough, or if part of the plaque breaks off and blocks a smaller part of the artery.


Coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG) is the most common surgical procedure done for the treatment of CAD. The surgeon uses a piece of a vein from the leg or artery from the chest or wrist. The surgeon attaches this to the coronary artery above and below the narrowed area or blockage. This allows blood to bypass the blockage. Some people need more than one coronary artery bypassed- thus the expressions “triple or quadruple bypass.”

Key Points about CABG from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute:

  • Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) is a type of surgery used to improve blood flow to the heart in people with severe coronary artery disease (CAD).
  • During CABG, a healthy artery or vein from another part of the body is connected, or grafted, to a blocked coronary artery. The grafted artery or vein bypasses (that is, it goes around) the blocked portion of the coronary artery. This improves the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart muscle.
  • CABG is one type of treatment for CAD. Not everyone with CAD needs CABG. In people who are candidates for the surgery, the results are usually excellent, with 85 percent of people having significantly reduced symptoms, less risk for future heart attacks, and a decreased chance of dying within 10 years following the surgery.
  • Your doctor will determine if you’re a candidate for CABG based on a number of factors, including the presence and severity of CAD.Often nonsurgical treatments, such as medicines and will be tried first.
  • Although the surgery is usually done on an elective (scheduled) basis, it may need to be performed in an emergency, such as pending or during a heart attack.
  • Although complications are rare, risks of CABG include infection at the incision site, bleeding, reactions to the anesthesia, fever and pain, stroke, heart attack, or even death.
  • Recovery may take 6 to 12 weeks or more. Most people can get back to their normal activities about 6 weeks after the surgery.
  • Care after surgery may include followup visits with doctors,lifestyle changes to prevent further progression of CAD, and taking medicines as prescribed.
Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery



Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

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