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HEALTH REPORT – November 13, 2002: Aspirin After Bypass Surgery - 2002-11-12

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

A new study says the common drug aspirin greatly reduces life-threatening problems after an operation to replace blocked blood vessels to the heart. The operation involves attaching new blood vessels onto the heart to bypass blockages in the arteries that feed blood to the heart.

More than eight-hundred-thousand people around the world have this heart bypass surgery each year. The doctors who carried out the study say giving aspirin to patients soon after the operation could save thousands of lives.

People usually take aspirin to control pain and reduce high body temperature. Doctors also advise some people to take aspirin to help prevent heart attacks.

About ten to fifteen percent of bypass operations end in death or damage to the heart, kidneys or intestines. The new study said even a small amount of aspirin reduced such threats. The doctors said the chance of death for bypass patients in the hospital who took aspirin fell by sixty-seven percent. They said this was true if the aspirin was given within forty-eight hours of the operation.

The research was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Dennis Mangano (mahn-GAH-no) heads the Ischemia Research and Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization in San Francisco, California. Doctor Mangano led a team that examined the records of more than five-thousand patients in seventeen countries who had a heart bypass operation. Some patients received aspirin daily after the operation. Other patients did not receive aspirin.

The doctors believe aspirin aids bypass surgery patients in two ways. They say it prevents blood from thickening and forming clots that block blood vessels. They also believe aspirin reduces inflammation in blood vessels which increases after an operation and can damage organs.

Several medical organizations already advise that patients receive aspirin soon after bypass surgery because it helps the new blood vessels. However, many doctors have advised against aspirin both before and after operations. They fear it may cause severe bleeding. Doctor Mangano’s team did not report that bleeding was a problem.

However, the doctors said people who have stomach or intestinal bleeding or other bad reactions from aspirin should NOT receive it after bypass surgery.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Jerilyn Watson.