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Bypass Surgery Best for Some Heart Failure Patients
Date:4/4/2011

patients who were supposed to have bypass surgery did not actually get the procedure, and 100 patients assigned to medication alone ended up having a bypass operation.

When the researchers straightened out these discrepancies, they found bypass surgery actually reduced the risk of dying from any cause by 30 percent to 50 percent compared with medication alone.

This finding comes with some caveats: there were more risks from bypass surgery than from medication alone. And, the survival benefit of bypass surgery only kicked in two years after the procedure, the researchers noted.

Two-thirds of the 6 million people in the United States with heart failure have clogged coronary arteries, the researchers said. Given the improvements in medical therapy, whether the risks of bypass surgery are worth it has not been clear, the researchers added.

Bypass surgery involves taking healthy arteries and veins from other parts of the body and using them to re-route blood around the blockages, to restore blood flow and normal heart function. It has been unclear whether the risks of bypass surgery were worth taking, given recent lifesaving advances in medical therapy.

Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that "the benefits and risks of coronary-artery bypass surgery in patients with chronic symptomatic heart failure have been uncertain and the results of the STICH trial have been eagerly awaited."

"These important new findings suggest that surgical revascularization should be considered for patients with heart failure and coronary-artery disease," he said.

In addition to these findings, the STICH researchers used data from the trial to look at whether imaging could identify patients most likely to benefit from bypass surgery. Scans were given to 601 of the patients in the trial.

After almost five years of follow-up, the researchers found that scans did not provide any clue to
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