Coronary stents are just as effective as bypass operations in extending longevity for patients with the most dangerous form of heart disease, a new study has found.
Scientists led by Dr Ki Bae Seung at the Catholic University in Seoul evaluated 1,102 patients who underwent stent implantation and 1,138 patients who underwent Coronary Artery Bypass Graft surgery (CABG), in South Korea between January 2000 and January 2006.
All suffered from a narrowing of the left main coronary artery, which carries the worst prognosis of any coronary artery disease.
"We found no significant difference in rates of death, myocardial infarction or stroke between patients receiving stents and those undergoing CABG," the study's authors wrote.
But researchers found that patients treated with a stent were six times more likely to suffer a re-narrowing of the artery and to have to undergo another surgical intervention to re-open it.
That result held even if the stents were coated with timed-release medication to prevent restenosis, or re-narrowing of the treated artery.
"Stenting, even with drug-eluting stents, was associated with higher rates of target-vessel revascularization," they wrote.
Seung reported his findings Monday at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology in Chicago, and the study was also published in the online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.
In an accompanying editorial, Robert Jones of Duke University in North Carolina wrote that the research was too limited to prove that stents, medicated or not, deliver results equivalent to coronary bypass surgeries.
A huge study published in 2007 showed that stents -- small tubes inserted in vulnerable blood vessels following an angioplasty procedure to open them -- are no more effective than taking medication to prevent hardening of the arteries.