Tonight we have some important health news that will touch many of us.  Coronary artery disease is the most common cause of death in America.  Doctors use two main methods of treating the condition: heart bypass surgery and coronary stents.


This study is important because it looks at the treatment of people with so called multi-vessel disease--where more than one heart artery is blocked.  And the study shows, in most, if there’s more than one artery blocked, the way to go is with surgery.


Not even his gun collection could help James Browne battle atherosclerosis--hardening of the arteries.  Five of the blood vessels in his heart were blocked.  He needed surgery.  “They wheeled me in the next thing I knew I was awoken they took me in the recovery room bing bang boom I felt no pain or anything like that it was a piece of cake,” says James.


And now, the latest research in the New England Journal of Medicine shows patients like James with more than one blocked heart artery would benefit more from getting bypass surgery rather than stent procedures.



Bypass surgery does exactly what it sounds like: doctors remove leg veins, or chest or wrist arteries, and reattach them so they act as a detour, or bypass, around a blocked heart artery.


Coronary stents involve placing a catheter is placed inside a blocked heart artery, inflating a balloon which pushes the clot aside…and then leaving in place a metal coil--a stent--which acts as a strut to keep the artery propped open.


In the study, almost 60,000 patients with so called multi-vessel disease--two or more blocked arteries--were studied.

More than 37,000 got bypass surgery--the rest got stent procedures.  Survival rates were significantly higher--24 to 36 percent higher--among patients who underwent bypass surgery than among those who received a stent regardless of where the blockages were located.


Dr. Alfred Culliford, one of the study's authors at NYU School of Medicine, says, "Those patients who have triple vessel coronary obstruction, that is involvement of all three major coronary arties, when they're followed at a three year period of time, do better in terms of quality of life, duration of life and the absence of cardiac events if they undergo bypass graphing compared to stent deployment."


Even if there were only two arteries blocked survival was still better in the long run with the surgery in many cases.  Which means for patients like James, if more than one artery is blocked, a visit with the surgeon may be the right choice to live as long as possible.  “It was necessary because had it not been I probably wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you now.  I’m 78 years of age I feel pretty good for my age.”


The study found most people with three vessels blocked get a bypass procedure anyway, but the majority of people with two vessels blocked get stents.  So this will have an important impact especially on those with the big artery blocked as one of the two vessels, they should be getting bypass to have a better chance at survival.


For more information on this study, go to: