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Even more impressive: 65 percent survived without surgery-related complications and even more without long-term complications -- a "very, very remarkable" result, Kurlansky said. Patients also reported a quality of life similar to others their age who did not have bypass surgery.
"What we are really dealing with is chronological age versus physical age," he said. Many elderly patients are hale and hearty, and if they need surgery, "there's no reason to deny them that."
The second study involved 8,796 elderly people in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont with leaky aortic valves. The condition can kill within two or three years, and "surgery is their best option" for treatment, said Donald Likosky, a researcher at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.
Six years after valve surgery -- which sometimes included a bypass procedure, too -- most were still alive. Median survival was seven years -- about the same as the general population of that age.
Those 85 and older in the study actually outlived their general-population counterparts.
Earlier research found that people 76 and older recovered more slowly than younger patients after bypass surgery, but a year later most of them reported improvements in pain relief and quality of life similar to those for younger patients.
Bufalino told of a 102-year-old patient at Loyola who had heart surgery 23 years ago, when she was 79. During a recent office visit, she put him in his place about her health.
"I reached up to help her off the examining table and she said, 'I don't need your help, I'm fine,'" he said.
On the Net:
Heart meeting: http://www.americanheart.org/
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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