In cardiovascular care, the use of stents is fairly common. Typically used to unblock an artery and maintain vascular patency and dilation, stenting is also done for patients whose arteries aren’t blocked, but experience angina caused by exertion because of narrow arteries – often referred to as stable angina.
A new study of 200 patients from the latter group throws questions on whether the use of stents in such patients is of any real medical value. The sample group consisted of patients with stable angina. Each of them received six weeks of intensive drug therapy for their condition, after which they were divided into two groups. One group received stents, and the other group’s members underwent a similar procedure but were not given stents.
One finding was that the stents did improve blood supply but did not relieve symptoms in a more enhanced way when compared to drug therapy. Cardiologists who have reviewed the study say that the results “show unequivocally that there are no benefits” of using stents – compared to drug therapy – for patients with stable angina. They even go as far as to say that stenting may not even be useful in such cases where a patient’s angina fails to improve after medication.
In fact, these cardiologists are calling for a downgrade in stent recommendations, citing the fact that over half a million patients in the U.S. and Europe undergo stent treatment, and that a significant minority go through severe complications like heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure and even death. They add that subjecting such patients to stenting when no benefit can be achieved is irresponsible.
Moreover, angioplasty is an expensive and sometimes elective procedure, which means patients could end up paying up to $50,000 in certain states across the U.S.
That said, the study cannot be taken as conclusive or definitive at this point. The researchers who conducted the study say that they need to further analyze the data to see if there may be subgroups of stable angina patients who do benefit from the stenting procedure. This is the first trial of its kind, according to one of the researchers.
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