Study Finds Doctors Too Quick to Insert Heart Stents

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Filed Under: Heart Health, Circulation
Last Reviewed 06/16/2014

Doctors may rush to stent even when it may not be the best treatment option. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: If I’m ever having a heart attack, I want someone to get me to the closest hospital to have an angioplasty/stent procedure performed as soon as possible.

Heart stents are simply the best way to improve blood flow to the heart and preserve heart muscle during a heart attack. But as with many amazing medical technologies, doctors have taken to overusing heart stents—something I’ve written about many times before and has now been validated by a new study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers found that 99% of the angioplasty/stent procedures performed on those either suffering a heart attack or “high risk” unstable chest pain where indeed appropriate. But for more stable patients, the study found that only 50% of the procedures were appropriate, as the procedure for less-symptomatic patients hasn’t been shown to save lives or prevent heart attacks.

Anatomy Is No Reason to Get Heart Stents

I strongly agree that nobody should should receive heart stents on the basis of anatomy alone. In other words, just because tests may reveal a narrowing in an artery doesn’t mean a heart stent is necessary if you are asymptomatic. It’s just bad medicine to perform angioplasty on patients with stable coronary artery disease who otherwise enjoy a satisfactory quality of life with drug therapy and lifestyle changes. It’s been my experience—and research has proven—that for people in this group, noninvasive therapies are just as effective as heart stent procedures.

To Decide if You Should Get a Heart Stent, Listen to Your Body

So, if you’ve been told you need a heart stent, I urge you to listen to your body. If you’re experiencing chest pain or your symptoms are progressively worsening, a heart stent is probably the right decision. But if you feel fine and your doctor is basing the recommendation strictly on test results showing some narrowing of arteries, you should definitely explore less-invasive options. The decision to get a heart stent should be based on your personal symptoms and not solely on narrowing or blockage of your arteries.    

Now it's your turn? Do you feel doctors are too quick to insert heart stents?

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