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Coronary bypass rates drop

Fewer people have undergone heart surgery since 2001

Think of it as bypassing the bypass. U.S. heart patients have been less likely in the past decade to undergo surgery to install a substitute vessel around a clogged coronary artery, with many patients getting a less invasive alternative procedure.

Coronary bypass operations decreased by 38 percent per capita in U.S. adults between 2001 and 2008, researchers report in the May 4 Journal of the American Medical Association. Meanwhile, angioplasty procedures — in which a doctor threads a catheter to the heart to open a blockage using a balloon — have stayed nearly constant, with the per capita rate dipping only 4 percent over that time. These catheters nearly always deliver a coated mesh cylinder called a stent, which props open the vessel from the inside. The study’s authors calculated the rates by analyzing a national sample of more than 5,000 coronary fixes.

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