Country singer Mark Chesnutt just underwent emergency quadruple bypass surgery. What to know about the heart procedure.

Country singer Mark Chesnutt stands at a microphone onstage.
Country singer Mark Chesnutt underwent quadruple bypass surgery, which is done to reroute blood flow to the heart when arteries are blocked. (Frederick Breedon IV/WireImage via Getty Images)

Country music singer Mark Chesnutt is recovering after undergoing emergency quadruple bypass heart surgery, the singer shared in an Instagram post. Chesnutt, 60, was taken to the hospital due to a “heart health issue” on June 16, according to the post. “The recuperation time will make it necessary to cancel show dates.” Chesnutt is no stranger to serious health concerns. He was previously hospitalized in November 2023 “after some extreme health issues.”

Chesnutt has shared little detail about his latest health scare and whether it’s related to his previous issues, but quadruple bypass is major surgery that typically requires considerable recovery time. Here’s what to know.

Heart bypass surgery is done to treat coronary heart disease, a condition in which the arteries that supply the heart with blood become blocked, preventing oxygen-rich blood from reaching it, according to the National Institutes of Health. Bypass surgery reroutes blood flow around a blocked artery, Dr. Sadiya Khan, a professor of cardiovascular epidemiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, tells Yahoo Life.

Bypass surgery is a serious, open-heart operation, and the most common one done in the U.S., Dr. Donna Kimmaliardjuk, a Cleveland Clinic cardiovascular surgeon, tells Yahoo Life. “It’s what we call ‘maximally invasive’ surgery,” she says. Surgeons crack open a patient’s chest to access the heart and, typically, put them on a heart-lung machine that breathes and pumps blood for them during surgery. They then take a healthy blood vessel, usually from inside the rib cage or a leg, and connect it to the blood vessel that’s blocked. That creates a new route for blood to travel to and from the heart, unimpeded.

When multiple arteries are blocked, this procedure has to be repeated on each blood vessel — four, in Chesnutt’s case. “When we see that [multiple arteries] have one or more blockages, that’s usually when someone is referred for surgeries,” says Kimmaliardjuk. She adds that triple bypasses to unblock some major arteries are more common, but sometimes four or more arteries need to be rerouted.

But the surgery “doesn’t get rid of the blockage, or [remove] it from the artery,” or address the underlying issue causing blockages in the first place, Khan notes.

Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of heart attacks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Cholesterol is the main driver” of blockages in the arteries, which carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body, says Khan. “When they get blocked, you can have classic symptoms of a heart attack or chest pain, pressure and tightness, particularly when doing heavy activities or in a heat wave, like we have now,” she explains.

So bypass surgery to treat it may be prompted either by a heart attack, or, more commonly, when tests show clear warning signs that the arteries are significantly blocked. Most patients have angina — a combination of chest pain or tightness, shortness of breath and low energy — when they need bypass surgery, says Kimmaliardjuk.

Doctors try to prevent too much buildup from forming by trying to lower a patient’s high cholesterol and blood pressure through diet, exercise and medications, including statins, says Khan. But if arteries are getting too narrow, the next line of defense is to reopen them by surgically implanting a stent, a balloonlike device that’s inflated to widen the opening. If multiple arteries are too damaged, a patient may need bypass surgery.

Recovery times depend on the patient’s overall health and how many bypasses they had, says Kimmaliardjuk. “Patients typically have a lot of soreness for two to three days after,” during which most patients stay in the intensive care unit for close monitoring, Khan says. “Open-heart surgery seems so big, but a lot of people are able to get up and move around the next day” after surgery, she says.

However, Kimmaliardjuk says that it can take as long as a year before a patient feels totally “themselves” again, even if they’re technically ready to resume their normal activities. And some people feel depressed or emotionally raw after surgery, she adds. “They’ve just gone through a big, life-changing event; it’s normal to have this adjustment period,” Kimmaliardjuk says.

Kimmaliardjuk says that the prognosis is “generally very good, in terms of getting you back to your normal activities and quality of life.”

The critical period is the month or so after surgery, when a patient’s body is trying to heal, they’ve been on a breathing tube, and they’re more vulnerable to infection. Kimmaliardjuk says the vast majority of patients survive the surgery itself. If there are no complications during the surgery or in the immediate recovery period, she says, about 98% survive, and more than 75% of people are still alive a decade after triple bypass surgery, according to Cleveland Clinic.

Even for people over 80, who are generally considered higher-risk candidates for surgery, the odds of being alive a year after surgery are more than 90%, estimates one Mayo Clinic study. “The goal and the beauty of bypass is that, once you get through the recovery phase, you’re able to go back to your normal life without having chest pains or having a heart attack,” Kimmaliardjuk says.

However, because the surgery doesn’t fix the underlying disease, “living a heart-healthy life” — including eating a balanced diet, exercising and not smoking — is critical to both recovery and long-term survival, she says.