Eighty-year-olds young at heart after surgery

    TORONTO, Oct. 28 /CNW Telbec/ - Patients in their 80s and even in their
90s can successfully undergo major cardiac surgery, allowing them to enjoy
years of enhanced quality of life, Drs. Kevin Lachapelle and Rakesh Chaturvedi
told the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2008, co-hosted by the Heart and
Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society.
    "This is an especially important finding because baby boomers will live
longer and better than anyone expected," says cardiac surgeon Dr. Lachapelle.
    He was reporting on 185 consecutive patients aged 80 and up who underwent
surgery at the McGill University Health Centre to replace or repair defective
heart valves. More than five years after the surgery, 60 per cent are alive
and, of that figure, over 90 per cent are leading active, healthy lives.
    "This is a successful result," says Dr. Lachapelle. "We performed surgery
on a diverse group; some of our patients came via the emergency room or as
elective patients. They could have received one procedure or undergone
several." The study included all patients.
    Dr. Lachapelle says there are many octogenarians out there who are not
referred for surgery because they are considered to be too old. "That's a
matter for surgeons to decide," he says. "We would not perform valve surgery
on some people with severe, debilitating diseases. And of course, there are
elderly people who decide they do not want to undergo surgery. We have to
respect their decision. We are all finite beings."
    The McGill study is even more significant because all patients received
open chest surgery. New, less traumatic, procedures such as operating via the
femoral artery are becoming available and may lead to even better results in
the elderly. According to Dr. Lachapelle, the study will be a significant
benchmark for measuring the long-term success of these new procedures.
    "We are sometimes asked if we are wasting money operating on patients
aged 80 and over and if we are putting elderly patients through unnecessary
trauma," says Dr. Chaturvedi, a co-author. "Keeping these patients active and
healthy saves costs to the healthcare system. A very significant number of our
patients are thriving."
    Only nine per cent of the surviving patients are living in supervised
settings (home or long-term facilities). Nearly 72 per cent are living at home
while 25 per cent are in a residence; only 26 per cent require help for major
activities or work. The vast majority can do their daily activities without
    "Basically 91 per cent of patients who have had the surgery are able to
go to the grocery store and get on with the business of living," says
Dr. Lachapelle. "The elderly should be given the same opportunity as a young
patient for access to significant medical care, he says.
    Dr. Beth Abramson, spokesperson for the Heart and Stroke Foundation noted
that in a country with an aging population this is an especially important
message. "This study suggests seniors can survive and have dramatically
improved longer lives following major cardiac surgery," says Dr. Abramson. "It
shows that the elderly can have good outcomes with procedures and clearly
shouldn't be denied treatment based on their age alone."

    Statements and conclusions of study authors are solely those of the study
authors and do not necessarily reflect Foundation or CCS policy or position.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Canadian Cardiovascular
Society make no representation or warranty as to their accuracy or

    The Heart and Stroke Foundation (heartandstroke.ca), a volunteer-based
health charity, leads in eliminating heart disease and stroke and reducing
their impact through the advancement of research and its application, the
promotion of healthy living, and advocacy.

For further information:

For further information: and/or interviews, contact the CCC 2008 media
office: (416) 585-3703 (Oct 26-29); Diane Hargrave, Public Relations, (416)
467-9954, dhprbks@interlog.com; Congress information and media registration is
at cardiocongress.org, After October 29, 2008, contact: Jane-Diane Fraser,
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, (613) 569-4361 ext 273, jfraser@hsf.ca

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