Blocked Arteries: Clean Them Out Naturally
The cardiologist entered the examination room with a grim look on his face.
After exchanging a few formalities, he came to the main reason for the consultation.
"Jim, I've reviewed your angiograms again, and there is no option. You
will need to have bypass surgery."
Jim was clearly shaken. "But doctor, are you sure? I nearly died on the
operating table the last time I had surgery. Are there no other options?
What about that balloon procedure--or new medications?"
"Jim, I really am sorry. I know how much you dread the thought of surgery,
but there is simply no other option."
Drawbacks of Heart Surgery
Dialogues like this take place thousands of times each year in America.
In spite of all of our advancements in technology, we still perform some
500,000 heart bypasses each year.1 The darling of heart specialists today,
however, appears to be coronary angioplasty. Fully 404,000 angioplasties are
performed each year in the U.S.2 Often referred to as the "balloon procedure"
in lay circles, this technique opens up blocked heart arteries by forcibly
opening a sturdy balloon inside the clogged vessels. The balloon flattens out
the obstructing fatty deposits, and thus allows more blood to pass through the
previously narrowed area. If the cardiologist believes there is a high
likelihood of repeat closure of the artery, a stainless steel wire mesh circular tube,
called a "stent," will be placed where the angioplasty was performed to decrease the
possibility of short-term repeated clogging.
Many lay people today have become so familiar with both bypass surgery and
angioplasty that they might think that Jim is a bit childish to fear such
well-honed therapies. Yet, experts who recognize the results of these common
procedures would likely share Jim's sentiments. One of the greatest concerns
with these methods is that they do not address the underlying disease process.
That disease is atherosclerosis, a condition that silently affects blood vessels
throughout the body. The disease causes a slow but steadily increasing blockage
of major arteries. Bypass surgery and angioplasty do nothing to change this gradual
accumulation of fatty deposits throughout the body. These high-tech procedures only
"buy time" by addressing what are often the most life-threatening areas of
blockage--the blood vessels nourishing the heart. If the process of atherosclerosis
is not addressed, the arteries that have been bypassed will again clog up; the
vessels that have been angioplastied or stented will again be obstructed with fatty material.
Furthermore, surgical methods are expensive and fraught with some very real risks.
The average cost of a hospitalization for coronary artery bypass surgery is $35,000
to $62,000 (national average of $44,200) depending on the operating surgeons and in
what hospitals they perform the surgery.3 Although the risk of operative death is
now down to about three percent or less in some centers,4 most people are completely
unaware of the potentially permanent side effects that can occur from this surgery.
For instance, two percent of bypass patients have a stroke and up to 57 percent suffer
some kind of neurological complication, often so subtle that the individual's family
may have simply written it off as "Dad is just getting older."5, 6, 7 MRI evaluations
have shown that the brain swells within an hour of bypass surgery; the reason may be
partly explained by microscopic blood clots that are common during heart surgery.8
On the other hand, coronary angioplasty costs about $22,000, depending on the physician
who does the procedure and where it is performed.9 The failure rate of angioplasties
done on a single heart blood vessel in the first six months is 35 to 45 percent, and
for multi-vessel angioplasties is 50 to 60 percent within the same length of time.
Such failures then require another angioplasty, stent placement, or even bypass surgery.10
Thus, performing surgery on a person with heart disease has three drawbacks, as
summarized in Figure 1: Three Drawbacks of Heart Surgery.
1 American Heart Association. 1997 Heart and Stroke Statistical Update. American Heart Association, 1997 p. 26.
2 American Heart Association. 1997 Heart and Stroke Statistical Update. American Heart Association, 1997 p. 26.
3 1992 hospital charges for two major surgical procedures for cardiovascular diseases. Part I: Coronary
artery bypass grafts. Stat Bull Metrop Insur Co 1994 Jan-Mar;75(1):12-20, 28.
4 Creswell LL, Moulton MJ, et al. Revascularization after acute myocardial infarction. Ann Thorac Surg
5 Shaw PJ, Bates D, et al. Long-term intellectual dysfunction following coronary artery bypass graft surgery:
a six month follow-up study. Q J Med 1987 Mar;62(239):259-268.
6 Smith PL, Treasure T, et al. Cerebral consequences of cardiopulmonary bypass. Lancet 1986 Apr 12;1
7 Roach GW, Kanchuger M, et al. Adverse cerebral outcomes after coronary bypass surgery. Multicenter
Study of Perioperative Ischemia Research Group and the Ischemia Research and Education Foundation
Investigators. N Engl J Med 1996 Dec 19;335(25):1857-1863.
8 Harris DN, Bailey SM, et al. Brain swelling in first hour after coronary artery bypass surgery.
Lancet 1993 Sep 4;342(8871):586-587.
9 Mushinski M. Average hospital charges for percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty, 1993:
geographic variations. Stat Bull Metrop Insur Co 1995 Jan-Mar;76(1):10-17.
10 Califf RM, Ohman M, et al. Restenosis: The clinical Issues. In: Textbook of Interventional
Cardiology. Philadelpha, PA: W.B. Saunders, 1990 p. 363-394.
Notice of Credit
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