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Heart Bypass

Heart patients fare about the same no matter which bypass method is used

An American Heart Association review of various studies concludes heart bypass patients fare about the same no matter which of two surgery methods doctors use.

The finding might help resolve a long-running debate over which bypass technique is best. In the standard procedure, doctors stop the heart and put the patient on a heart-lung machine. In the newer method, surgeons operate with the heart still beating. The review says costs are about equal. The so-called "off-pump" operation, in which the still-beating heart is held by a device while the bypass graft is sewn in place, began to gain ground about ten years ago.

President Clinton's recent heart surgery was done the traditional way, which is used on more than 75 percent of bypass patients.

That process carries a small risk of stroke and neurological complications. The heart association's statement appears today in the journal Circulation.

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