By Samuel Peace
Modern day health care has evolved at a phenomenal rate over the past hundred years. New technology and a greater knowledge of what can be done with the human body have helped create some major success stories; stories which sound like miracles. These days however, what used to be seen as quite miraculous has now just become a “common practice” or a “standard operation”. One such surgical procedure is the Coronary Heart Bypass (CHB) surgery.
As the name suggests the CHB surgery is focused on the heart and the flow of the blood. Coronary is the name given to the arteries which directly feed into the heart. The term bypass is used in its literal sense which is to ‘avoid’ or to ‘go around’. A build up in the arteries of a fatty substance called Atheroma leads to Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) which is the reason a CHB is needed. If left untreated then the build up could eventually lead to full blockages and blood clots, which in turn can often cause fatal heart attacks and strokes. The CHB surgery is an option which will create a diversion for the blood flow enabling it to avoid the blockage altogether, and to reach the heart without any problems.
Ray Peace a 76-year-old man from Bognor Regis recently underwent a quadruple CHB. He had a vein which was the length between his groin and his ankle taken out of his leg in order to create the four new routes needed for his heart. However, despite having this high risk and complex operation he was walking again two days later. He was then discharged from hospital only seven days after he had the surgery. Six weeks have passed since the operation and he is nearly fully active again. He has daily exercises, takes regular walks, and has checkups once a week. He has also started driving again and he plans to restart his daily swimming routine around Christmas time.
He said “I’m pretty much back to normal now. The experience was nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be, and I didn’t feel too much pain afterwards. In fact the only pain I have now is in my leg where they took out the vein. I usually take painkillers before bed, but the past few days I haven’t”. He went on to say: “My last check up is at the end of November, so hopefully I can start swimming again after that. It all depends on my blood pressure and how my chest muscles are.”
Cardiovascular diseases such as CHD are responsible for approximately 32% of all the deaths in the UK each year. This is higher than any other cause including cancer mortalities. In 2010 there were almost 180,000 deaths from heart diseases with CHD alone causing just over 80,000 of them. Of these around 46,000 were men and 34,000 women. The big difference was their age range, as both genders had over 27,000 fatalities in the 75+ category. While below the age of 35 there was only 102 for men and 36 for women.
However despite the severity of such an illness, there has actually been a 45% drop in CHD since 1998. In fact the number of deaths per 100,000 people in 2010 is less than a third of what it was in 1980. While a couple of years ago there were 114 male and 50 female deaths per 100,000, 30 years ago there were 380 and 164 respectively. Compared to the rest of Europe the UK isn’t too bad, however it falls slightly behind its biggest neighbours.
As of 2009/2010 France leads the way for men with only 52 deaths per 100,000 people. This is closely followed by Portugal on 57, the Netherlands on 59, Spain on 65, Italy on 80, Germany on 111 and Ireland on 131. The worst mortality rate falls with the Ukraine which had 656. It’s a similar story with women albeit on a smaller scale. France once again leads with only 20, followed by Spain and the Netherlands on 27, then Portugal on 30, Italy on 40, Germany on 57 and Ireland on 61. This time Moldova suffered the highest with 424.
It’s not all doom and gloom though as there are plenty of success stories like Ray’s. Every year it is estimated that there are around 28,000 bypass operations. Although the CHB procedure is very dangerous, the survival rate in the UK as of 2009 is as high as 98% for the first 30 days post op. There is a further 90% chance for five years and 85% for 10. As a majority of these ops occur with people over the age of 75, a life increase of 10 years is astounding. Even if it’s not classed as miraculous, it’s still pretty impressive.