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Researchers isolate causes of cognitive loss following coronary artery bypass surgery

Minimizing trauma to the body's largest artery the aorta during heart bypass surgery can significantly reduce cognitive loss that often follows the operation, a team from Wake Forest University School of Medicine reported today (Jan. 21) in the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.

"A surgical strategy designed to minimize aortic manipulations can significantly reduce the incidence of cognitive deficits in coronary artery bypass graft patients compared with traditional techniques," said the team, headed by John W. Hammon Jr., M.D., professor of cardiothoracic surgery.

Surgical technique is the primary cause of later thinking cognitive problems in coronary artery bypass graft patients, concluded the research team from the School of Medicine, part of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. The team includes psychologists as well as surgeons, anesthesiologists and neuroradiologists.

Since the late 1980s, the team has focused on surgical technique. In 1997, they reported reducing stroke and other acute complications following coronary artery bypass surgery from the national average of six percent of patients to less than one percent of patients at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, a national first.

Difficulty in thinking is also a widespread problem following bypass surgery, reported at many institutions. Since 1992, the Wake Forest research team has been investigating these cognitive complications following bypass surgery which normally employs the heart-lung machine. They developed methods to track the causes of the complications and test techniques to reduce the complications.

They have also been developing methods for doing coronary artery bypass without using the heart-lung machine. Much of the research over the years was paid for with a major grant from the National Institutes of Health.

In the new study of 237 patients, the team compared the standard method of coronary artery bypass using the heart
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Contact: Robert Conn
rconn@wfubmc.edu
336-716-4587
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
21-Jan-2006


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