Cardiologists worldwide are in shock, a new study uncovers that one of the most typical medical uses of stents– to relieve chest pain in steady cardiovascular system patients – may not work. Each year, over half a million people around the world receive stents for this reason.
A stent is a small mesh tube that medical professionals insert into tightened or weakened veins to prop them open. The treatment saves lives for people during a cardiac arrest, but it’s also prescribed for stable heart patients with angina – the chest pain and tightness caused by minimal blood flow to the heart. Even pain-free patients with arterial blockages often get stents, and price of the treatment starts at around $11,000 for people without having insurance.
Patients often report relief from the treatment, but the new study, published last week in The Lancet, found no significant difference in pain relief among patients treated with stents compared to people treated with a placebo procedure.
In the randomized, regulated study involving 200 patients in the United Kingdom with severe narrowing of one artery, about half were treated with stents, and the other half went through a placebo procedure. All were given medicines to reduce the risk of a heart attack and prevent blood clots. Nor the patients nor the researchers monitoring them during the six-week research knew who got stents and who did not.
Soon after six weeks, all of the patients reported relief in angina symptoms, and everyone showed an enhancement on treadmill machine tests – regardless of whether or not they had received a stent.
“All cardiology guidelines should be revised,” published David L. Brown, MD, of the Washington University School of Medicine and Rita F. Redberg of the University of California, San Francisco, in an editorial in the same issue of The Lancet.
“Several randomized trials have clearly shown that stents and angioplasties don’t prolong life or prevent cardiac arrest in stable patients. Now, we know that they don’t reduce angina either,” published Dean Ornish, MD, clinical professor of medicine at the University of California of San Francisco, commenting on a New York Times report of the study.
“In contrast, comprehensive lifestyle changes cause a 91 percent reduction in angina in just a few weeks, reverse the progression of coronary artery blockages, and cause a 400 percent improvement in blood flow at a fraction of the costs, and the only side-effects are good ones,” included Ornish, who is also founder and president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California.