On Thursday, March 20, Benjamin, a close friend of
mine, called me early in the morning to ask if I was "gloating" .
For close to 20 years, I have been saying that the routine surgical
treatment of heart disease is harming more people than it is helping.
This is not my opinion - it is based on a series of scientific studies
starting from 1977 that all show the same thing: Compared to non
surgical therapies, surgery almost always does more damage than
Benjamin brought to my attention a front-page article
in the March 20, 1997, Los Angeles Times: Yet another comparative
study of conservative vs. invasive treatment on patients who had
had mild heart attacks. The results were again clear and unequivocal.
Sadly, the immediate use of an invasive strategy, which mostly
leads to angioplasty and bypass surgery, not only didn't help
patients, but increased the in-hospital death rate by 71%.
For over a decade, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association have recommended that patients who have had mild heart attacks undergo immediate catheterization, or angiography. This is a procedure that involves threading a catheter into the arteries of the heart, injecting a dye, then taking x-rays of the heart in order to see the location and severity of blockages in those arteries. This leads to a dramatic increase in the use of bypass surgery and angioplasty, because physicians then try to open up observed blockages to prevent future heart attacks or death.
There are no scientific studies to indicate that
this "invasive strategy" is best for patients, but that
has not prevented the heart surgery industry from going ahead
on the presumption that it is.
This Study Showed More Patients Died in the Surgical Group
To test the validity of these recommendations of immediate invasive action on patients with mild heart attacks, William E. Boden, M.D., of the Veterans Affairs Upstate Health Care System in Syracuse, New York, organized a study. He followed 920 patients who had had mild heart attacks for two and a half years. Of these, 458 were randomized to be treated with a "conservative strategy," in which they received medications and treadmill and thallium tests as the first step in monitoring their condition. The remaining 462 underwent catheterization as their first diagnostic test, which was followed by bypass surgery or angioplasty in 45% of the patients.
Dr. Boden was astounded by the results. In the first
nine days, 21 of the patients in the "invasive strategy group"
died, compared to only six in the conservative strategy group.
At the end of two and a half years 80 patients in the invasive
group had succumbed, compared to only 59 of those in the conservative
group, an overall increased death rate of 36%. At no stage was
there any evidence that an invasive strategy did anything
but increase the death rate.
I am sure that virtually all of you have encountered
conventional physicians who have stated that "there is no
scientific evidence" for diet, vitamins, or any of the alternative
therapies covered in this newsletter. Research abounds, as evidenced
by references in this newsletter. The same caliber of physicians
control the American Heart Association and the American College
of Cardiology, and for the past 10 years they have recommended
that immediate catheterization be the standard for the treatment
of patients with mild heart attacks. It does not concern these
physicians that there is no scientific grounding for these recommendations
to begin with, and I'm sure that this study will be "nitpicked"
For years I have watched the unabated growth of the heart surgery industry, despite scientific studies demonstrating that, used as a "first option," it clearly does more harm than good. Studies like this one have been published in the peer reviewed medical literature and reported in the media, yet none of this research has significantly reduced the use of heart surgery. The truth is that the use of catheterization and other invasive therapies as a standard course in any group of heart patients will always increase the death rate, because of the inherent dangers of the therapies themselves.
A good example of this is angioplasty, in which a
balloon on the tip of a catheter is used to open blockages. In
my opinion, there is never a reason for anyone to have an angioplasty.
It is a dangerous procedure looking desperately for validation.
Whenever it is compared to a non surgical therapy-and there have
been very few of these studies-patients treated with angioplasty
virtually always fare worse. There is a higher death rate, higher
heart attack rate and, in general, a higher repeat surgery rate.
This procedure will, in my opinion, always be an unproven, expensive
and dangerous gimmick that became an accepted therapy based on
self-serving "presumption" only. Bypass surgery may
be helpful for some patients, but it should not be used as the
first treatment, and clearly not in mild heart attack patients.
Medication, dietary and lifestyle changes, plus nutritional supplements
are more effective approaches.
It is standard for cardiologists and heart surgeons to "frighten" patients into heart surgery, and it leaves psychological scars that last forever. When you say, "No, thank you," to a recommendation of angiogram or surgery, expect a plethora of fear-inspiring scenarios. Surgeons use phrases like "You're a walking time bomb," "You could go at any minute," "You might not make it to Christmas," "The next heart beat may be your last," and "You are living on borrowed time."
Harvard cardiologist and Nobel Peace Prize winner
Bernard Lown, M.D., calls these "words that maim." In
his extraordinary book, The Lost Art of Healing, he lists
many examples of phrases used by unaware, uncaring, or manipulative
This frightening technique generates, in my opinion,
hundreds of thousands of unnecessary procedures, procedures that
patients would refuse if they were calmly
given an accurate assessment of the risks, benefits and results of comparative scientific studies. Without the fear tactic, there would be no heart surgery industry.
Having followed this industry for 20 years, I am
surprised that some kind of class action suit has not been brought
against the entire industry, including the authoritative organizations
such as the American Heart Association and the American College
of Cardiology, which are responsible for establishing standards
This Approach Causes a Lot of Death and Suffering
If you add up the in-hospital death rates from bypass surgery (500,000 surgeries x average in-hospital death rate of 5% = 25,000 deaths) and angioplasty (400,000 procedures x average in-hospital death rate of 2% = 8,000 deaths), you're looking at 33,000 deaths per year. These patients did not die from heart disease. They did not die in the throes of heroic measures to save their lives. They died from a surgical procedure. And, even more tragic, many of them were quite healthy, and did not even need the procedure to begin with. The 33,000 deaths brought about by these procedures are roughly equal to the annual number of deaths attributed to AIDS.
If you are being pressured to undergo any of these procedures, get a second opinion. Conservative care, including everything I recommend in the Whitaker Program, plus targeted nutrition, will serve you better in the long run.
Julian Whitaker, MD
HEALTH & HEALING: Tomorrow's Medicine Today
Reprinted with permission. Copyright 1997.
Dr. Julian Whitaker, M. D., editor of Health &
Healing, has practiced medicine for over 20 years, after receiving
degrees from Dartmouth College and Emory University. Dr. Whitaker
has long been an advocate of living a healthy life. Over the last
20 years, thousands of patients from all over the country have
to the Whitaker Wellness Institute in Newport Beach, California,
for a one-week program of medical testing, treatment and education
designed specifically for their individual health problems. He
is the author of five major health books: Reversing Heart Disease,
Reversing Diabetes, Reversing Health Risks, A Guide to Natural
Healing, and Is Heart Surgery Necessary? These books
and information about the Whitaker Wellness programs are available
from the Whitaker Wellness Institute at 714/851-1550..
Dr. Julian Whitaker's Health & Healing®
(ISSN 1057-9273) is published monthly by the Phillips Publishing,
Inc. P. O. Box 60042, 7811 Montrose Road, Potomac, MD 20859, telephone
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