An article at Boston.com raised a disturbing issue — the continued use of angioplasty and stents in non-acute coronary patients. The reason for concern is that this surgery seems to be no more effective in treating heart problems than does the taking of medication. And of course taking medicine is normally much less risky than surgery. Here are excerpts from the article:
Using minimally invasive angioplasty to reopen clogged arteries and insert stents in patients with stable heart disease doesn’t extend life or prevent future heart attacks any better than medications such as baby aspirin or cholesterol-lowering statins. Yet 173,000 such patients have angioplasties with stents every year in the United States, according to a recent study.
The research, published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that 12 percent of elective stent procedures performed in heart disease patients were clearly inappropriate and that an additional 38 percent were of “uncertain’’ benefit.
“We know that in people having an acute heart attack, finding a blockage and opening it with angioplasty can save the heart muscle and save lives,’’ said study author Dr. Paul Chan, a cardiologist at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart and Vascular Institute. But that’s not the case, he said, for “ordinary vanilla-brand elective angioplasty’’ used for narrowed coronary arteries that aren’t completely blocked by a clot or ruptured plaque.