Harvard Heart Letter

Bypass results vary by hospital

Checking up on hospitals and surgeons before bypass surgery may pay off.

A quarter of a million Americans have bypass surgery each year. Most of these operations are elective procedures, scheduled in advance to ease chest pain or other symptoms of cholesterol-clogged coronary arteries. Even though it's a big operation, the vast majority of people who undergo bypass surgery survive it, recover, and live better lives because of it. The sad fact is, though, that between 2% and 3% of people die during or soon after having bypass surgery, according to numbers from the federal Agency for Health Care Quality. As you might expect, that nationwide number hides a huge range, with very low death rates in some hospitals and high rates in others. A study underscores the gap in quality from hospital to hospital.

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