Bypass Surgery: Does it stop our natural defense system?

It appears that bypass surgery interrupts a self-healing process that the body will start when it detects that oxygen is not reaching the heart. Extraordinarily, 75 per cent of heart patients experience a relief of pain within three to six months without any medical intervention because the body starts growing new blood vessels to form a natural bypass of the obstructed arteries.

These ‘collateral vessels’, as they are known, are able to keep the blood flowing to the heart, even when a main artery has completely closed. These vessels usually disappear after bypass surgery, ‘sensing’ a new flow of blood to the heart.

Collateral vessels tend to grow when artery narrowing and blocking is a slow process. A vessel that is only slightly narrowed, and then suddenly blocks completely, is likely to cause a myocardial infarction (heart attack) that the body can do nothing to prevent.

‘The common practice of rushing patients in for emergency or urgent surgery because of a severely narrowed coronary artery is completely unnecessary, and needlessly frightens the patient and his family’, says Dr Howard Wayne of the Noninvasive Heart Centre.

His view is supported by a study that found that chances of survival following a mild heart attack are higher if the hospital does not immediately operate but instead adopts a conservative approach. Overall, 80 of 138 people who underwent invasive treatment such as a bypass died during a 23-month follow-up period, compared with 59 of a group of 123 patients who had received conservative treatment, including drug therapy.

(Source: What Doctors Don’t Tell You March 2004; New England Journal of Medicine, 1998; 338: 1785-92).

* This article is one of many revealing pieces about bypass surgery in this month’s What Doctors Don’t Tell You. If you want to start subscribing, click on this link:

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