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Heart surgery survival rates rise

People are less likely to die during heart surgery even though more high-risk patients are going under the knife, a report has said.

Death rates among people undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery, which accounts for almost two-thirds of all heart surgery in adults, are falling despite surgeons taking on more elderly patients.

Every year, a total of 28,000 operations are performed on people in the UK with the condition - caused by a thickening and hardening of the blood vessel wall, resulting in a narrowing of the arteries supplying blood to the heart muscle. The procedure involves taking a vessel from the chest or leg to use as a graft.

The Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery report found that a quarter of all patients undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery in 2008 were over 75 - a rise of 10% on the number in 1999.

Looking at the records of just over 400,000 operations, the report also found the over-80s made up 4.4% of all patients undergoing this type of operation.

And more people with high-risk conditions such as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure are also having the operation.

Yet despite this, there has been a 0.9% drop in the number of patients dying during the procedure, from 2.6% in 2001, to 1.9% in 2004 to 1.5% in 2008.

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Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery