Is Open Heart Bypass Surgery Always Necessary?

An article published this month in the AARP magazine questions the necessity of many of the heart bypass operations conducted in the United States. We note up front, that this is not a peer-reviewed article published in a professional medical journal. However, the article quotes opinions of cardiologist Thomas Graboys, M.D., associate clinical professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, cardiologist Prediman K. Shah, M.D., director of cardiology and of the Atherosclerosis Research Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and William Boden, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. There point is that "neither bypass (in which a healthy blood vessel is grafted around the blockage) nor angioplasty (insertion of an inflatable balloon into the artery to open it) has been shown to prevent heart attacks." They suggest that for low risk patients, non-surgical therapies should be used. Only cases of very severe disease (for example, cases of blockage in the left main coronary artery) should be candidates for bypass. Exercising, quitting smoking, eating a Mediterranean-style diet, and using medications for blood-pressure and cholesterol lowering (statins and niacin) help recovery.

We suggest you read the complete article and think carefully before going in to surgery with all the risks associated with it. It seems that in Canada and Europe, angioplasty and heart bypass surgery are used as a last resort, not first as they are here in the United States.

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Last Modification - October 24, 2004