Heart Bypass Safe, Effective for Patients Over 80

British study shows most still alive 5 years after procedure

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THURSDAY, Aug. 18, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors shouldn't be reluctant to recommend heart bypass surgery for patients in their 80s, according to a British study in the current issue of the journal Heart.

Researchers studied nearly 12,500 heart bypass patients, more than 700 of whom were older than 80 when they had the surgery.

According to the study, most of these octogenarian patients were still alive five years after the surgery, and were also at half the risk of death compared to their peers in the general population, the study found.

The patients were operated on between 1996 and 2003 in one specialist unit at a hospital in England. During that time, the percentage of heart bypass patients in their 80s increased from just over four percent to nearly 10 percent.

The study found that these older patients were more likely than younger patients to undergo emergency bypass surgery, which suggests a tendency by doctors to treat older patients more conservatively until they reach a crisis situation, rather than offering them surgery at an earlier stage, the authors noted.

Among the heart bypass patients in their 80s, the degree of urgency and the length of the operation predicted whether a patient was likely to survive or die, over and above traditional benchmarks used to assess potential death risk.

Older heart bypass patients were more likely to die and to spend more time in intensive care than younger patients. However, the older heart bypass patients' chances of survival were 50 percent better after the surgery than their peers in the general population, the study found.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about bypass surgery.

SOURCE: BMJ Specialist Journals, news release, Aug. 18, 2005

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