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Heart Bypass Surgery Rates Drop Dramatically, Study Finds
Date:5/4/2011

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, May 3 (HealthDay News) -- The number of heart patients getting bypass surgery fell by nearly 40 percent between 2001 and 2008, new U.S. research finds.

The drop likely reflects several factors, including a decline in smoking rates, which has led to less coronary artery disease, said senior study author Dr. Peter Groeneveld, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Also, better and more aggressive treatment of coronary artery disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, means fewer patients progress to needing surgery.

Another factor is that many patients with blocked arteries instead undergo percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), also called balloon angioplasty, in which a doctor threads a catheter into the artery and inflates a balloon at the tip. Usually, a wire mesh structure called a stent is left behind to prevent the artery from narrowing again.

Though PCI is an excellent option for many patients, researchers stressed that bypass surgery -- officially called coronary artery bypass graft, or CABG -- may be the best option for some patients with certain severe blockages, including those with triple blockages or left main coronary artery stenosis, Groeneveld said.

"Patients need to be aware that CABG can be a good treatment option, and it's gotten better," Groeneveld said. "There have been several innovations that have made the recovery time much less than it used to be." In CABG, a new artery or vein is grafted, or connected, to the blocked artery to restore blood flow.

The study is published in the May 4 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Groeneveld and his colleagues analyzed data on a national sample of patients who underwent procedures to clear blockages at U.S. hospitals between 2001 and 2008. Most of the procedure
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