Heart bypass surgeries drop by a third in U.S. in past decade

May 5, 2011

A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association says the number of coronary artery bypass surgeries performed in the U.S. has fallen by nearly a third over the past decade.

Some patients are treated with drugs to dissolve a blood clot that's blocking an artery in order to prevent a heart attack.

Others undergo balloon angioplasty and get stents to open the artery.

But some will need bypass surgery – which usually means opening the chest and stopping the heart.

Dr. Kim Eagle is director of the University of Michigan’s Cardiovascular Center. He says fewer patients get the more invasive procedure these days.

"We have better technology that allows us to steer stents into places that might have been hard to get," Eagle says. "We now have stents that have medication encoded on them to prevent a renarrowing problem."

Eagle says Americans have been making progress in heart health by quitting smoking and controlling their cholesterol.

However he says doctors are very concerned about the future of children, because of skyrocketing obesity rates.