Useless Medicine: Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery

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Filed Under: Useless Medicine
Last Reviewed 03/28/2014

Useless Medicine: Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery

Coronary Artery bypass surgery involves grafting a vein, usually harvested from the leg, around a blocked coronary artery in an effort to restore blood flow. But, coronary artery bypass surgery is not and has never been the panacea that surgeons claim it is.

In fact, research has shown that coronary artery bypass surgery does not prevent heart attacks or save lives in close to 90 percent of people who receive it.

Studies Show No Real Benefit From Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery

In 1977, the first controlled clinical trial comparing bypass surgery to conservative medical therapy was published. After five years of follow-up, the patients who had undergone coronary artery bypass surgery fared no better than those who had been treated conservatively. The annualized death rate in both groups was only 3 percent per year.

This should have put an end to bypass, but it didn’t. Five years later, an even more damning study was published. The Coronary Artery Surgery Study (CASS) involved 780 patients, half who had coronary artery bypass surgery and half who received drug therapy.

This definitive clinical trial was expected to confirm that patients with serious heart disease would benefit from bypass surgery. Instead, bypass was a bust. Rates of heart attack and death from heart disease were no lower in patients who had bypass surgery than they were in a similar group treated without coronary artery bypass surgery.

The death rate in the patients who didn’t have bypass was a surprisingly low 1.6 percent per year. The chance that any surgery will improve upon a death rate this low is virtually nil. It boils down to one indisputable fact: You cannot save the life of someone who is not going to die.

Coronary Artery Bypass Studies Are Still Relevant Today

I know you might be suspicious of studies published so long ago. Yes, surgical techniques have improved and surgery-related death rates have dropped.

But that’s beside the point. Heart disease and the patients who suffer with it have not changed during that time any more than the Earth has gotten flat since it was discovered to be round.

Patients with serious heart disease who are treated without surgical intervention have an annual death rate under 2 percent. It’s hard to improve upon a survival rate this high (over 98 percent per year).

Yet today, coronary artery bypass surgery, angioplasty and other “lifesaving” heart procedures continue to be foisted upon more and more folks who don’t need them.

Three Points to Consider With Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery

If you are faced with a recommendation for coronary artery bypass surgery, you need to remember three things.

  1. According to the medical literature, the overwhelming majority of people in your situation will not receive any benefit from bypass surgery. Stand firm and, unless there are extenuating circumstances like a significant blockage in the left main coronary artery, just say no.

  2. Despite the doom-and-gloom warnings, you do have options. As the scientific literature illustrates, in most cases, any other treatment approach would be preferable. You may elect to simply stick with a drug regimen. Or you may explore other therapies like hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) and enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP).

  3. Whatever your decision, you should make lifestyle changes and begin a supplement program.

No matter what: You need to think this invasive cardiology issue through now, not when you’re lying in the E.R. with a doctor telling you you’re going to die if you don’t have coronary artery bypass surgery right away.

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