Study Finds Doctors Too Quick To Insert Stents

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Heart Health, Circulation
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

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. It’s 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 this life-saving procedure—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.

I strongly agree that nobody should be stented on the basis of anatomy alone. In other words, just because tests may reveal a narrowing in an artery doesn’t mean a 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 stent procedures.

So, if you’ve been told you need a stent, I urge you to listen to your body. If you’re experiencing chest pain or your symptoms are progressively worsening, a 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 stent should be based on your personal symptoms and not solely on narrowing or blockage of your arteries.    

Related Articles & Categories
Enjoy What You've Just Read?

Get it delivered to your inbox! Signup for E-News and you'll get great content like you've just read along with other great tips and guides from Dr. Sinatra!

blog comments powered by Disqus