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 Dr. George Jacob
Heart Infocenter


Study Finds That Aspirin Lowers Death Risk After Bypasses 

A major research study, conducted from 1996 through 2001, found that giving aspirin to heart patients soon after bypass surgery dramatically lowered the risk of complications and death. The results contradicted long-held worries of cardiologists that the tablets can trigger disastrous bleeding. The results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine (October 24, 2002).

About 1 million patients world- wide undergo coronary by- pass surgery each year. The researchers estimate that giving an aspirin within hours of bypass surgery could prevent about 27,000 deaths and 51,000 serious complications annually worldwide.

The study was conducted by researchers at the Ischemia Research & Education Foundation (a non- profit research group in San Francisco). It involved 5,065 patients at 70 medical centers in 17 countries.

Implication of this research is tremendous. "It's studies like this that actually change practice," according to Dr . Robert Bonow, president of the American Heart Association.

The American Heart association and the American College of Cardiology in 1999 recommended giving patients 100 mg to 325 mg of aspirin within 24 hours of bypasses using grafts from leg veins. Aspirin has been a mainstay of treating and preventing heart disease for a generation because it thins the blood and prevents clots. Yet many doctors are reluctant to give it soon after or shortly before bypass, fearing that it will interfere with clotting and cause life-threatening internal bleeding.

In the study, about 60 percent of the patients received aspirin in doses up to 650 milligrams. The researchers found that those getting aspirin within 48 hours of bypass surgery were:

  • Only one-third as likely to die in the hospital as the others.

  • Only half as likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke while still in the hospital.

  • Only one-fourth as likely to suffer kidney failure.

  • Only one-third as likely to have bowel damage from blood clots.

Source: Associated Press, New England Journal of Medicine

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