Renee S Hartz MD

The Big Heart Disease Lie

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Cardiothoracic Surgeon Professor of Surgery Tulane University Tulane Xavier Women's Center of Excellence New Orleans, Louisiana

CORONARY ARTERY BYPASS grafting (CABG) is the most commonly performed surgical procedure in the United States. There are approximately 325,000 CABG procedures performed every year, and patients who receive this surgery benefit from more than thirty years of experience and published medical data on its relative safety.

Just as CABG is the most commonly performed surgery, more health care dollars are spent treating arteriosclerotic conditions (such as coronary artery disease and stroke) than any other illness in America. These expenditures will dramatically increase as the life expectancy of the U.S. population continues to rise. Currently, men live on average to age seventy-two years and women to age eighty years.

At the same time, the number of female patients undergoing treatment for coronary artery disease is increasing much more rapidly than the number of male patients. In less than fifty years, it is expected,

more cardiovascular health care dollars will be spent on women than on men.

Likewise, the medical community has begun to look at the impact of race on CABG, and this is a topic that deserves attention.

When studying the outcome of CABG in large populations, including mortality and incidence of complications, we have found that females and non-Caucasians fare less good. Moreover, women and non-Caucasian patients stand a greater chance of having several other conditions, each of which on its own increases risk.

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