Heart bypass surgery performed while the heart is still beating may pose an increased risk of death for patients, a new review of past studies has concluded.
The review, by Cochrane Collaboration researchers, suggests beating heart surgery should only be performed in cases where stopping the heart might be seriously life threatening.
Heart bypass surgery has for many years been done by stopping the heart and introducing a bypass to pump the patient's blood as surgeons work. But new techniques allow surgery to be done “off pump” -- without stopping the heart, using stabilization devices.
For the new review, researchers examined 86 studies, involving a total of 10,716 patients. They found off-pump approaches increased the risk of a patient’s death slightly when compared with on-pump bypass.
"Our data raise a warning regarding coronary artery bypass surgery performed while the heart is beating," said lead researcher Christian Møller at The Copenhagen University Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark. "By comparison, the traditional on-pump method seems less risky and, based on this evidence, should remain the standard surgical treatment."
But beating heart surgery may be a better option in certain patients for whom stopping the heart poses a particular risk, he added.