Many Stent Procedures Unnecessary
Heart Drugs Just as Good at Preventing Heart Attacks, Death in Some People, Study Shows
WebMD News Archive
March 26, 2007 (New Orleans) -- Hundreds of thousands of Americans may
undergo unnecessary angioplasty and stent procedures to open clogged heart
arteries each year, a landmark study suggests.
The long-awaited results show that people with stable coronary artery
disease who got common medications to lower blood pressure and cholesterol
levels were no more likely to die or to have a heart attack over the next five
years than those who also underwent angioplasty with stents.
Of the more than 1.2 million angioplasty procedures performed each year, at
least 50% of them are done on an elective basis in people with stable coronary
artery disease, says Stephen Nissen, MD, president of the American College of
Cardiology (ACC) and head of cardiovascular medicine at The Cleveland
In people with coronary artery disease, plaque builds up in the arteries,
making it harder for blood to get through, thereby depriving the heart muscle
of oxygen. This can lead to chronic chest pain that worsens during exercise and
to heart attacks.
During angioplasty, a balloon at the end of a long tube is threaded through
an artery in the groin. The doctor shimmies the probe up through the patient's
leg and into the arteries of the heart, inflating the tiny balloon at the spot
where the vessel has narrowed.
To keep the vessel open, doctors usually add a stent to the end of the
balloon catheter. These metal, mesh-like tubes prop open clogged arteries to
restore blood flow.