Biddle, Wayne and Slade, Margot. "A Case Against Rushing into Bypass Surgery," New York
Times, 30 October 1983, p. E7.
Reports on the advantages of bypass surgery have been around for years but there never has been
any evidence that the surgery is effective in promoting longevity. It has, however, been a very
popular procedure because the results can be dramatic and the procedure is simple for surgeons
to do and apparently heroic surgery.
In a report released last week, a 10 year study suggested that a substantial number of patients
could safely postpone the operation and perhaps avoid it entirely. This kind of surgery did not
significantly improve a patient's chances of survival over the following six years. The National
Heart, Lung and Blood Institute "did not fault surgeons for operating in these cases, but offered
them data on which to base a decision to delay the procedure."
"Few of the 780 patients in the study followed advice to lower their cardiovascular risk factors.
Some 40 per cent were smokers when the project began and more than 30 per cent were still
smoking five years later. Incidence of overweight and high serum cholesterol actually increased
during the study period."
Clearly, the surgical quick fix may not change the behaviors of those who believe that surgery is
all that is necessary. Surgery may build up false expectations of "cure" and "prevention" in
patients, and thus be self-defeating.