New report shows coronary angioplasty most common heart operation

Angioplasty is now the most common coronary procedure, overtaking coronary artery bypass graft operations, a more invasive procedure that has been used since the 1960s, according to a new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The report, Coronary Angioplasty in Australia 1999, marks 20 years of angioplasty in Australia.

The procedure accounted for almost 19,500 operations in 1999 or about 53 operations per day. This is a 7% increase over the previous year. Angioplasty involves insertion of a balloon into a coronary artery, which is then inflated to expand the artery and restore adequate blood flow.

The technique is less invasive than coronary artery bypass grafting (which requires opening of a patient's chest), which accounted for about 17,321 operations in 1999.

Angioplasty is usually associated with the use of a coronary stent. Co-author of the report, Joanne Davies, said there had also been a sharp increase in the use of coronary stents in heart procedures since 1993.

'Stents-metal mesh tubes used to keep the arteries open-were inserted in 92% of coronary angioplasty patients in 1999, compared with 3% of patients six years earlier,' Ms Davies said.

'Angioplasty is three times as common in men as it is in women, and most patients are between 60 and 80 years old.'

The Heart Foundation's Director of Health, Medical and Scientific Affairs, Professor Andrew Tonkin, said that coronary angioplasty was one of the 'great recent advances against Australia's biggest epidemic'.

The report shows there were almost 19,200 hospitalisations involving coronary angioplasty procedures, with an average length of stay of 3.8 days. Angina remains the main reason for undergoing coronary angioplasty. However, the procedure is also being increasingly used in the early treatment of heart attacks.

The treatment is very successful, with over 96% of patients treated in 1999 being discharged from hospital with an adequate opening of the affected arteries and no angina or other complications.

Coronary Angioplasty in Australia 1999 is the latest in a series of reports tracking cardiac procedures in Australia to keep up with important developments that introduce significant changes in practice. The report has been jointly produced by the AIHW and the National Heart Foundation of Australia.


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