Patients who undergo bypass surgery for heart disease have better long-term survival rates than those who opt for less invasive procedures like angioplasty, a major US study showed on Tuesday.
The study looked at data from 190,000 US patients and found that those who had bypass surgery had a lower death rate in the first four years (16.4 percent) compared to those who had angioplasty (20.8 percent).
Bypass operations involve open heart surgery to create a detour around a blocked artery using a vein taken from somewhere else in the patient's body.
The type of angioplasty examined in the study, known as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), involves a small incision to thread a balloon, a wire stent or a tube through the blocked artery to keep it open.
"Our study is the most general one ever done because it uses data from across the whole country. It is also much larger than any other study", said William Weintraub, chair of cardiology at Christiana Care Health System and the study's lead investigator.
"Combining data from several large databases, we found that survival was better with coronary surgery than percutaneous coronary intervention."
Still, the evidence does not suggest that bypass surgery is the right option for everyone.
"It does push the needle toward coronary surgery, but not overwhelmingly so," said Weintraub.
"When we're recommending coronary surgery to patients, even though it is a bigger intervention than PCI, we can now have a little more confidence that the decision is a good one."
Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and strikes when fatty buildup narrows or blocks the heart's arteries.
The research was presented at the 61st scientific meeting of the American College of Cardiology.
(Open-heart bypass surgery photo by Condor 36 via Shutterstock)