Coronary bypass surgery is the most common type of heart surgery in the United States as well as the Western world. About 500,000 such surgeries are performed each year in the United States.
During this process your chest is cut open and one or more of the coronary arteries are generally replaced with veins taken from your leg. This operation could last 4 or more hours and requires extensive physical rehabilitation even if the surgery is successful.
Where are the benefits?
Considering its widespread use, most individuals would conclude that there must be extensive research proving beyond any doubt whatsoever that people who undertake such a serious operation either:
- live longer than they would have without the operation;
- have a better quality of life (even if they do not live longer).
Unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth.
“It was a good idea that does not work.”
Professor Nortin Hadler of the University of North Carolina has published over 200 articles in medical journals and published 12 books. He has been interviewed many times about his opinion on coronary bypass surgery, about which he has said, “It was a good idea that does not work.”
In Professor Hadler’s opinion, bypass surgery should be relegated to the archives of medical history. Professor Hadler states that none of the studies on this procedure has ever shown it saved a life, except in some very specific circumstances.
In fact, studies have shown that bypass surgery does not improve symptoms any better than conventional treatment with medication. Dr. Hadler is not alone in his criticism of this procedure.
Problems unfixed and potential risks
Dr. L. David Hillis, Professor of Cardiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, has stated, “People often believe that having these procedures fixes the problem, as if a plumber came in and fixed the plumbing with a new piece of pipe, but it fundamentally doesn’t fix the problem.”
Up to this point I have only addressed the research which shows conclusively that, other than some very specific circumstances, bypass surgery does not benefit you. Individuals should also be aware of the potential risks of such surgery:
- 1% – 2% death rate due to the surgery
- 2% – 4% show evidence of surgery-induced heart attack
- 40% chance of memory and other cognitive impairment
- An alarming number of patients never return to the work force or describe themselves as well again
- Hospital-acquired infections
- 40% experience atrial fibrillation (irregular heart rhythm)
- 30% require a blood transfusion
- 2% – 4% experience neurological problems
- 5% – 10% experience a temporary decrease in kidney function
The only way to make certain that you obtain proper medical care is for you to ask your physician to explain all the potential benefits and harms, as well as doing additional research on your own. You need to be Captain over your health journey.
- Video interview with Nortin Hadler, MD, Professor of Medicine and Microbiology/Immunology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: “Nortin Hadler Interview – Coronary Bypass and Angioplasty”
- Bloomberg Business: Is Heart Surgery Worth It?
- Pritikin Longevity Center: Angioplasty and Bypass Surgery: Our Only Options? Will noninvasive solutions like diet and exercise work for you?
- UptoDate (evidence-based, physician-authored clinical decision support resource): Coronary artery bypass graft surgery (bypass surgery)