Number of coronary bypass surgeries rising in Hawaii

Dr. Henry Louis
Dr. Henry Louis

By Paul Drewes - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - With the sudden death of Kauai Mayor Bryan Baptiste, who was recovering from bypass surgery, some may wonder what happens during this medical procedure. The thought of a surgeon cutting into your beating heart makes many people squirm. And some may think its a last resort to treat heart problems.

But this procedure is a lot more common than you may think.

They're getting ready for another heart bypass at Hawaii Medical Center East. It will be one of about 250 heart operations they'll do this year. Dr. Henry Louis, a cardio-thoracic surgeon says, "It's a drastic option for treating heart disease."

But a popular one, there will be an estimated half-a-million of these operations done across the country in 2008.

The artery is like the H-1 freeway, with traffic normally flowing freely. But like when there is an accident, a blockage will slow down bloodflow. So doctors will construct a detour around the blockage using grafted arteries or veins.

A typical bypass takes around 3-4 hours for doctors to attach a replacement artery or vein to the heart.

Mayor Baptiste underwent a quadruple bypass surgery, meaning four arteries were bypassed, but died after being released from the hospital.

Island doctors say that is uncommon. "The average risk is about 2-3 percent that something bad will happen." adds Dr. Louis.

But what is alarming to doctors is 'who' is needing heart care in Hawaii. A growing number of women and people still in middle age.

But not all live to get that treatment. "About 50 percent of people find out they have heart problems with a heart attack, but about half of those won't survive that heart attack." says Dr. Louis.