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Doctor points finger at ‘eager’ heart surgeons

New Delhi, Feb. 14: A Delhi-based doctor claimed today that sections of cardiac surgeons across the country are coaxing heart patients to opt for surgical interventions without doing enough to try and reverse their heart disease through rigorous lifestyle changes.

But senior cardiologists have challenged his claim, asserting that while lifestyle changes should be prescribed to all patients with coronary artery diseases, surgical intervention remains the best option for certain categories of patients.

Bimal Chhajer, a doctor who has specialised in human physiology, told reporters today that studies from the US and the experiences of thousands of patients since the early 1990s suggest that a strict regimen of diet and exercise can reverse coronary artery blockages.

“But sections of surgeons appear eager to perform either bypass operations or insert stents as the treatment for blocked arteries,” Chhajer said, claiming that such surgeons are putting commercial interests ahead of the long-term interests of patients.

“I think some surgeons are exploiting fears and ignorance of heart patients,” said Chhajer, who has himself been offering non-surgical treatment involving lifestyle changes and, whenever needed, drug-therapy, to patients with heart disease for nearly two decades.

Chhajer, who runs a network of 15 clinics across the country, claimed that changes in diet and exercise intended to reverse heart disease are less expensive alternatives to cardiac bypass or stents and do not carry any of the risks associated with surgical interventions.

But a senior cardiologist said it is “irresponsible, misleading and wrong” to suggest that lifestyle changes by themselves would be appropriate for all heart patients.

“Diet and exercise should be an adjunct therapy for all patients with coronary artery blockages,” said Dorairaj Prabhakaran, a senior cardiologist and professor of chronic disease epidemiology at the Public Health Foundation of India, New Delhi, an academic institution.

“But the intervention should be chosen wisely — some categories of patients such as those with unstable angina, those who have suffered heart attacks and those who have blockages in certain key arteries need to be treated through surgical interventions,” Prabhakaran told The Telegraph.

A senior cardiologist in a private institution said about 30 per cent of patients with coronary blockages are recommended medical management with appropriate regimens of diet and exercise.

Chhajer has been promoting a rigorous combination of diet and exercise that was pioneered by Dean Ornish, a physician at the University of California in the US, and demonstrated to reverse blockages.