Going in for angioplasty? Pause for a moment. It has now been found that drugs are just as effective in unclogging your arteries.
So much so, more than half a million people a year with chest pain are getting an unnecessary or premature angioplasty, suggests a new study.
More important, angioplasty did not save lives or prevent heart attacks in non-emergency heart patients, it says.
Dr William Boden of Buffalo General Hospital in New York, who led the study, said the findings were surprising and that angioplasty did not afford anything more than temporary relief.
In his study only one-third of the people treated with drugs ultimately needed angioplasty or a bypass.
Coronary artery bypass surgery reroutes blood around clogged arteries to improve blood flow and oxygen to heart muscle. Surgeons use a segment of healthy blood vessel from another part of the body and create a detour, or 'bypass,' around each blocked portion of artery. Patients usually stay in the hospital at least three days; full recovery may take months.
Angioplasty, an alternative to bypass, is a non-surgical procedure to open a blocked artery, usually by inserting a wire mesh tube called a stent. Physicians thread a catheter with a deflated balloon on its tip through a blood vessel in the arm or leg and into a blocked artery in the heart. When the blockage is reached, the balloon is inflated. This pushes plaque to the side and stretches the artery wider so blood can flow more easily.
Previous studies have also talked about reclogging of arteries after angioplasty. But now, after the New York study, cardiologists would say, more firmly than in the past, try out drugs first.