You know to choose the best possible surgeon should you need something like a pacemaker or stent inserted into your chest. But what about recommending that your doctor use the most cutting-edge procedure?
Doing so could save your life, argued the late heart researcher Gerald Buckberg, in his 2018 book, Solving the Mysteries of Heart Disease: Life-Saving Answers Ignored by the Medical Establishment.
Buckberg, a distinguished professor of cardiac surgery at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, died shortly after the title's release, but other cardiovascular surgeons have joined his call for hospitals to make certain advanced techniques standard practice.
They say surgical practices that could save lives and enhance quality of life are not being offered to patients, even while heart disease remains the leading cause of death for both men and women, killing about 610,000 Americans each year, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
"It's sad and frustrating” to know beneficial procedures could be widely used, but aren't, says Brad Allen, a longtime researcher and heart surgeon in Los Angeles.
One reason for the resistance, surgeons say, is that doctors and hospitals are graded by insurance companies and administrators on how many patients survive 30 days following a procedure.
The pressure to keep that number high has shifted some to focus more on short-term success, laments James Cox, a professor of surgery at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago. A patient seems fine and goes home, he explains, but there may be long-term damage that doesn't get enough attention.