Cholesterol-lowering drugs that help prevent heart disease also appear to cut the risk of a heart attack and other complications after angioplasty. Angioplasty, an alternative to bypass surgery, allows doctors to open clogged coronary arteries without major surgery by inserting a tiny balloon to the narrowest point and inflating the balloon. But 3 of every 5 patients who go through the procedure will suffer a major setback within 4 years. Some patients suffer heart attacks, others need repeat angioplasty or bypass surgery.
A new study, involving 1,456 patients in 12 countries, has found that cholesterol-lowering drugs could reduce the risk of these complications by 30%, compared with patients taking a placebo. The risk reduced by 40% in patients with more than one clogged artery, and by 45% in patients with diabetes. None of the patients had previously taken the drugs, called statins, and all of them had had their first angioplasty within the previous 8 months.
Statins reduce cholesterol by slowing cholesterol production. Several large studies demonstrated that the drugs prevent heart attacks and heart-disease deaths. Cardiologist Robert Harrington of Duke University said the results are anything but surprising. "It's more evident that statins are good for people with heart disease. we must tell patients undergoing angioplasty that we must start you on a statin."