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What Joe faces on the operating table; Newcastle United boss Joe Kinnear could be out for the season after being told he must have a heart bypass operation. KATY SIMPSON talks to Professor John Dark about the procedure.

HE vowed to be back in the dugout for Newcastle United's match with Everton.

But now Joe Kinnear has a more important battle ahead.

The Toon boss has been told he must have a heart bypass operation this week and will need at least six weeks' rest.

This is the minimum period patients need off work, explained Professor John Dark, who is senior surgeon at the Cardiothoracic department at Newcastle's Freeman Hospital.

"A bypass often involves a week in hospital followed by six weeks off," said Prof Dark. "People get back to desk jobs after six weeks, and they get back to everything fully after three months.

"It is a big operation. It involves opening up the chest because the problem we usually have is that there is a blockage or tightening of the artery.

"The whole reason to do it is if the patient is having angina, like chest pains, and that's the body's way of telling you something is wrong.

"The aim is to bypass completely the blockage by taking a tube, like a piece of vein or an artery, to introduce a new blood supply.

"Patients often need three or four bypass grafts - that is the typical number."

At 62, Kinnear is young to undergo a heart bypass.

Prof Dark, who has been at the Freeman for 20 years, said: "The average age is 67 and nearly half are over 70.

"When I first came here the average age was 55. But the age has gone up and now we can operate on much sicker patients we wouldn't have been able to before."

With the stress and pressure of the job, it is no surprise Kinnear is not the only football manager to find himself in hospital with heart problems. Ex-United chief Graeme Souness required a triple heart bypass operation in 1992 which meant he missed a large chunk of the 91/92 campaign when he was Liverpool manager.

And another ex-Liverpool boss, Gerard Houllier, also missed five months of the 2001/02 season after falling ill at half-time of his side's 2-1 loss against Leeds before undergoing an 11-hour operation after he suffered a dissected aorta.

Prof Dark explained what causes people to need a heart bypass.

He said: "It completely depends on lifestyle. There is no one job that can be said to cause it, but we used to see a lot of taxi drivers and HGV drivers because it is stressful and sedentary.

"People who are overweight, smoke and have bad family history are more at risk."

Although the procedure is relatively common, with 20,000 heart bypass operations taking place across the country every year, there are still risks involved, including a 2% chance of not surviving the procedure.

But successful operations transform patients' lives, giving them the same life expectancy as someone without a history of heart problems.

Prof Dark said: "The long-term outlook for patients is very good. It basically reverses heart disease."

CAPTION(S):

EXPERT: Prof John Dark of the Freeman Hospital; HOSPITAL: Joe Kinnear; ILLNESS: Gerard Houllier; BYPASS: Graeme Souness
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 12, 2009
Words:511
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