Unbelievable: Heart stents fail to ease chest pain

Ebony Scott
November 6, 2017

The placebo effect of stents places in heart patients who experience chest pains may be more risky than previously thought, a new study suggests, possibly changing how cardiovascular care is carried out.

For six weeks, all the patients were treated with a blood pressure drug and medication to reduce their risk of a heart attack before the procedure.

The patients who had stents implanted did not have any more improvements in their angina or in their overall quality of life, compared to those who did not get a stent.

A stent is a small tube used to open up arteries in patients experiencing heart attacks, or chest pain due to blocked arteries.

That could mean that drug therapy alone, rather than the pricey, artery-opening devices, is all that's needed for certain patients, the researchers said. Therefore, inserting stents into the most blocked one doesn't do much. Angina is the medical term for chest pain.

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Stents and their implantation cost from $11,000 to $41,000 in American hospitals.

The study was published online November 2 in The Lancet medical journal, to coincide with a presentation at a cardiology meeting in Denver. Then, they were inserted either real of fake stents, and neither the doctors nor the patients knew who had the real thing.

Therefore, there wasn't such a big difference between the two groups of patients. Both sets of patients taking part in the study felt less chest pain at the end of the six weeks. "This is the first trial of its kind, and [it] will help us to develop a greater understanding of stable angina, a disease which affects so many of our patients every day".

"We don't know if the conclusions apply to people with more severe disease", Dr Maron said. It's a very humbling study for someone who puts in stents", said Brahmajee K Nallamothu, an interventional cardiologist at the University of Michigan.William E Boden, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, called the results "unbelievable."David Maron, a cardiologist at Stanford University, praised the new study as "very well conducted" but said that it left some questions unanswered".

"Based on these data, all cardiology guidelines should be revised to downgrade the recommendation for [stents] in patients with angina", whether or not they also received drug therapy, the doctors said. They add that subjecting such patients to stenting when no benefit can be achieved is irresponsible.

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