Passing on the bypass

Last week a colleague sent me a news item with critical information for anyone who is advised to undergo a heart surgery procedure. More than just saving you quite a bit of money, this information might very well save your life.

The dangerous status quo 

The news item I received had details on an article in the New England Journal of Medicine that cited a nationwide study of 1,000 patients faced with the prospect of heart surgery, such as balloon angioplasty or bypass operations. The results showed that death due to heart attack was more than 210% HIGHER for patients who chose surgery. It may seem astonishing, but it’s true: Patients who refused the invasive procedures had a much greater survival rate.

For many alternative healthcare professionals, however, this is not news. Since 1977, similar studies have returned results that are simply confirmed by this more recent study. In the late 90’s, for instance, the Los Angeles Times reported on a study demonstrating that unnecessary heart surgery increased the in-hospital death rate by more than 70%. And by some estimates, bypass surgery and angioplasty cause more than 30,000 in-hospital deaths in the U.S. each year. The important distinction here is that these deaths are not caused by heart disease, but by surgery.

Clearing passages

So – if your doctor suggests heart surgery, what are your options? One safe and considerably less expensive option is chelation therapy. Chelation contains vitamins, minerals, and a synthetic amino acid called ethylene diamine tetracetic acid (EDTA) that binds with calcium deposits in the arteries and eliminates them from the body.

Since there is a lot of controversy surrounding this procedure, I asked HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., to give us his insight into chelation, and here’s what he had to offer:

“Most therapists in the know who use chelation for arterial disease believe that a mixture of oral and intravenous (IV) chelation works best. I agree with this route. Though put down by the conventional types, this alternative should be given some serious attention by anyone with confirmed cardiovascular disease. It’s vastly cheaper than bypass surgery (though not cheap – about $100 for each of 30 IV treatments) and has a very impressive track record. I understand some insurance companies are even paying for it now, in an effort to avoid having the patient go for a bypass.

“I’ve had the 30 treatments, and though they take a few hours each week to sit through, there’s very little other hassle. If this treatment is something you wish to consider, you should become familiar with the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM) and its literature. ACAM physicians are the pioneers of chelation therapy and are, by far, the most skilled and qualified doctors to do these procedures, or, at the very least, they’re the best people to learn about the procedures from. I’d recommend a trip to and a look into their literature before going under the knife.”

Cutting edge 

Another even less invasive treatment I’ve read about recently is called Enhanced External Counter Pulsation (EECP). Like IV chelation, this treatment requires a round of regular visits to clinics with health professionals who are trained to administer EECP.

The procedure utilizes a pressure suit fitted to the lower half of the body. An electronic device sequentially inflates three sets of flexible cuffs, moving the blood from the legs to the heart, synchronized with each heartbeat. Networks of auxiliary blood vessels are expanded, and the amount of blood flowing to the heart muscle is increased.

EECP is a relatively new procedure that we haven’t yet fully explored at HSI, so it’s not something we’re ready to recommend. From what I understand, however, it can be used to treat ischemic heart disease, but is primarily recognized as a treatment for angina. In the one and only study of EECP that I could locate (reported in the Journal of Investigative Medicine), the authors found that improvements were measurable up to one year after the EECP treatments were completed. An EECP study is currently being recruited by the Mayo Clinic Rochester.

If you or someone you know has used EECP therapy, I hope you’ll write and share your experience with us. In the meantime, if your doctor pressures you to have heart surgery, let him know that you insist on exploring the full range of options before committing to an expensive and dangerous procedure.

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson
Health Sciences Institute