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Stents May Be Unnecessary For Certain Heart Patients, Study Says

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The placebo effect of stents places in heart patients who experience chest pains may be more dangerous than previously thought, a new study suggests, possibly changing how cardiovascular care is carried out. This could mean that medications alone could be enough to treat certain kinds of patients, instead of the more expensive stent that opens arteries.

Rasha Al-Lamee from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London and lead author on the study, said,

The most important reason we give patients a stent is to unblock an artery when they are having a heart attack. However, we also place stents into patients who are getting pain only on exertion caused by narrowed, but not blocked, arteries. It’s this second group that we studied.

The study had 200 participants who were experiencing stable angina, CBS News reports. They received intensive drug treatment for six weeks, and after, either received a stent or completed a simulated procedure where there was no stent placed.

The patients who had stents implanted did not have any more improvements in their angina or in their overall quality of life, compared to those who did not get a stent. Angina is the medical term for chest pain, which is usually caused when fatty plaques build up in the arteries.

Stents and their implantation cost from $11,000 to $41,000 in American hospitals.

Al-Lamee said, “Surprisingly, even though the stents improved blood supply, they didn’t provide more relief of symptoms compared to drug treatments, at least in this patient group.” She added, “While these findings are interesting and deserve more attention, they do not mean that patients should never undergo the [stent] procedure for stable angina. It may be that some patients opt to have an invasive procedure over taking long-term medication to control their symptoms.”

The researchers intend to conduct further analysis of their data to find out if there are certain groups of patients who do benefit from stents.

The study was published in The Lancet.

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