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Coronary bypass rates drop

Fewer people have undergone heart surgery since 2001

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4:00pm, May 3, 2011

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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