Restricting the blood flow to the arm may improve outcomes of heart surgery

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A new study suggests that patients undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery may have improved outcomes by having a procedure done that temporarily restricts the blood flow in their arm.

The procedure called "remote ischemic preconditioning" could reduce the heart damage that occurs during heart bypass surgery.

The cardiologists from University College London Hospital studied 57 patients undergoing heart bypass surgery.

Of the group 27 received remote ischemic preconditioning which was started six hours after CABG, involving three five-minute cycles of having the blood flow in one arm restricted using an automated cuff-inflator; there was a five-minute period between each cycle where the cuff was deflated.

The other 30 patients served as controls.

Remote ischemic preconditioning works by depriving one organ of blood flow in the hope of protecting another organ from sustained ischemia (reduced blood flow) but whether the technique does actually benefit people undergoing CABG is however unclear.

Dr. Derek M. Yellon who led the study says the procedure was associated with a significant 43 percent reduction in troponin T levels after bypass surgery.

Troponin T is a heart-related protein that may be released into the bloodstream following the "injury" to the heart during surgery and it's presence in blood in bypass surgery patients is associated with poorer short and long-term outcomes after surgery.

The researchers say the findings now need to be replicated by other doctors in other institutions on larger numbers of patients to confirm the findings.

The research is published in the current issue of The Lancet.

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