Features October 2017 Issue

Study: Diabetes Not a Reason to Avoid Cardiac Bypass Surgery

Cleveland Clinic researchers found that while type 2 diabetes is a concern for heart surgery, it doesn’t reduce the odds of good long-term outcomes.

As the number of people with diabetes continues to grow, the other health ramifications of this disease are still being discovered. A common complication of diabetes is damage to your blood vessels. High levels of glucose (sugar) in your bloodstream can contribute to atherosclerosis, a hardening and narrowing of the arteries.

Given these concerns, it stands to reason that heart surgeons would be concerned about whether a blood vessel attached to the heart during coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) wouldn’t succumb to narrowing triggered by diabetes.

However, a Cleveland Clinic study found that for two common types of CABG, the newly attached blood vessel is just as likely to remain open whether or not the patient has diabetes. The condition of being wide open is known clinically as patency.

The study looked at the results of using an internal thoracic artery (a blood vessel in the chest) and a saphenous vein (a blood vessel from the leg) for CABG.

“Today, nearly 50 percent of patients undergoing CABG have diabetes. However, little is known about bypass graft patency in patients with vs. without diabetes,” says lead researcher Sajjad Raza, MD, with Cleveland Clinic.

The study found that patients treated with either of those other blood vessels fare equally well, regardless of their diabetes status. Researchers looked at the records of more than 57,000 CABG patients dating back 20 years. Long-term patency was similar between the saphenous vein and the internal thoracic artery.

Post-Surgery Health

While the patency may not be affected by the presence of diabetes, it is still vital that you take steps to control risk factors that could further damage your heart health in the weeks, months and years after CABG. Participation in a cardiac rehabilitation program is one of the best steps you can take. You will learn how to exercise safely, and why it’s so important, as well as how to follow a heart-healthy diet and manage conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Your ability to live a long, healthy life after heart surgery is largely based on changing to a healthier lifestyle and dedicating yourself to controlling the factors you can manage.

Reducing the threat of diabetes usually involves a combination of regular exercise, weight control, diet, and medications to help manage your blood glucose levels and any other heart-related conditions. The patency of blood vessels used in CABG is only one concern of having diabetes. The condition can also affect the nerves in your eyes, kidneys and feet, as well as your brain health and your ability to heal from injuries.

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