Researchers from Imperial College London looked at 200 patients who either received a heart stent or a sham procedure. Hundreds of thousands of heart patients receive a stent for this condition every year, and these devices can cost hospitals as much as $41,000 per implantation, according to The New York Times. Neither the patients nor their doctors knew who had received what. After that, they either received a stent or underwent a simulated procedure where no stent was implanted. This is not all, as the latest study raises questions on whether stents must be used so frequently to treat chest pain or not.
To assess the efficacy of stents at relieving chest pain, researchers enrolled 200 patients with a blocked coronary artery who were experiencing chest pain severe enough to limit physical activity.
Dr Al-Lamee, who is also an interventional cardiologist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said: 'While these findings are interesting and deserve more attention, they do not mean that patients should never undergo the procedure for stable angina. It is typically caused by the build-up of fatty plaques in the arteries.
Those given a sham version of the procedure, getting an angiogram using a catheter to examine their arteries but no stent, managed 11.8 seconds.
The study was published online November 2 in The Lancet medical journal, to coincide with a presentation at a cardiology meeting in Denver.
The patients in the study all had stable angina, which is reliably triggered by exercise or stress. But new research suggests stents may be more placebo than panacea for some of those patients.
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"It seems that the link between opening a narrowing coronary artery and improving symptoms is not as simple as everyone had hoped", Al-Lamee said. But she says further research should help lead to a greater understanding of stable angina.
"All cardiology guidelines should be revised", Dr. David Brown, of Washington University School of Medicine, and Dr. Rita F. Redberg, of the University of California, San Francisco, wrote in an editorial accompanying the new study, published by The Lancet on Wednesday.
"I myself have seen that many, many times", he said.
The patients were treated for a period of six weeks with drugs so as to reduce the risk of a heart attack.
Doctors need to focus more on drug therapy and efforts at "improving the lifestyle choices" of many heart patients - things like bad diets, lack of exercise and smoking, the editorialists concluded. It is done for people who have had a heart attack, as well as the almost one in seven men and one in 12 women with angina because of hardened arteries or fatty plaques in their blood vessels.
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