• Kyodo

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Emperor Akihito successfully underwent heart bypass surgery Saturday at University of Tokyo Hospital after he was diagnosed with angina, the Imperial Household Agency said.

The coronary-artery bypass surgery, conducted by a team of doctors from the hospital and Juntendo University Hospital, started at 11:01 a.m. and ended at 2:57 p.m., officials said.

It was the 78-year-old Emperor’s first surgery since 2003, when he underwent an operation for prostate cancer.

The doctors grafted two blood vessels removed from another part of the Emperor’s chest and used them to bypass the obstructed arteries.

They used the so-called off-pump method to keep the Emperor’s heart beating during the surgery, judging it would be easier on his body than using a heart-lung machine and will allow him to be discharged from the hospital sooner.

After the operation, the Emperor was transferred to an intensive care unit.

The team of doctors was led by Juntendo University Hospital’s Atsushi Amano, who has wide experience in heart bypass surgery.

“The surgery will be called a great success when the Emperor returns to his daily life and his official duties,” a confident Amano told a news conference after the operation. “I’m looking forward to seeing the Emperor’s return.”

The Emperor should be able to leave the hospital in about two weeks if there are no complications, the Imperial Household Agency said, adding that he might be able to address a ceremony on March 11 to mark the first anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

The doctors said the operation will improve the Emperor’s quality of life, as it will make it easier for him to perform his official duties and scholarly activities — and even to play tennis if he wishes.

They said such bypass surgeries are common and should not give rise to great concern. About 16,500 people underwent similar operations in Japan in 2009, according to the Japanese Association for Thoracic Surgery.

Empress Michiko, 77, accompanied the Emperor when he was admitted to the hospital Friday to prepare for the procedure. She managed to talk with him briefly in the intensive care unit following the surgery.

Their daughter, Sayoko Kuroda, also visited the Emperor at the ICU. Kuroda was formerly Princess Nori but became a commoner after marrying someone from outside the Imperial family,

When an angiogram performed Feb. 11 showed a narrowing of two of the Emperor’s three coronary arteries, the doctors decided to graft a blood vessel and use it to bypass the obstructed branches, the agency said.

The Emperor underwent a cardiac test after displaying symptoms of minor ischemic change while engaging in light exercise, a state when insufficient oxygen is reaching the brain. Compared with a similar test in February 2011, further narrowing of the arteries was found, prompting doctors to decide on the bypass surgery.

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