Life-Saving Surgery Now Less Deadly

Risk of stroke during or following bypass surgery continues to decline

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Risk of stroke following bypass surgery is lower than ever, according to a new study.

Approximately 1.6 percent of patients who underwent coronary artery bypass graft surgery, or CABG (pronounced 'cabbage'), at the Cleveland Clinic experienced stroke during or shortly after bypass surgery.

In bypass surgery, arteries or veins from elsewhere in the patient's body are grafted to the coronary arteries to improve bloodflow to the heart muscle.

Stroke rates as a result of bypass peaked at 2.6 percent in 1988, according to the new study. Often, these patients arrived at surgery in poorer overall health than today, however.

Risk for stroke increases during heart surgery as fatty buildup that is clogging arteries can break off and travel to the brain, blocking bloodflow, or blood pressure can drop too low during surgery, preventing the brain from getting the oxygen it needs.

These stroke-risk increases have prompted some doctors to push for a less invasive procedure known as percutaneous coronary intervention, or PCI, in which a small mesh tube (stent) is threaded from an artery in the arm or leg and into the clogged artery in the heart to open it.

For the new study, Cleveland Clinic researchers analyzed data from more than 45,000 bypass patients who had CABG surgery between 1982 and 2009. A total of 705 participants had a stroke, 40 percent during surgery. The remaining strokes occurred an average of two days later.

Nearly 800,000 Americans experience stroke each year. The vascular event is the No. 1 cause of disability in the United States and third leading killer of Americans.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 28, 2011
Last Updated:
January 28, 2011