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Life-saving surgery for heart patients increases by more than one-third

Use of a surgical procedure to open plaque-narrowed or blocked arteries in hospital patients—called percutaneous coronary angioplasty, or PTCA—increased from 581,000 to 791,000 between 1997 and 2004, according to data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP).

PTCA, along with two other procedures used to diagnose heart cardiovascular problems—cardiac catheterization and echocardiogram—were among the 10 most frequently performed non-obstetrical procedures in U.S. hospitals in 2004.

In contrast to the increase in PTCA, use of coronary artery bypass graft surgery(CABG)—an operation that circumvents narrowed or blocked coronary arteries—fell 29 percent, from 431,000 in 1997 to 308,000 in 2004.

Cardiovascular procedures were most common among patients age 45 and older. For example, among the 1.6 million cardiac catheterizations conducted in hospitals in 2004, about 92 percent were performed on patients age 45 and older. Patients over age 45 also accounted for 95 percent of the use of PTCA.

Editor's Note: HCUP is the Nation's largest source of statistics on hospital inpatient care for all patients regardless of type of insurance or whether they were insured. For more information on HCUP, go to http://www.ahrq.gov/data/hcup.

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