New study: Are heart stents always necessary?

A study challenges the idea that heart stents are necessary to treat chest pain.

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - Nearly 2 million Americans receive heart stents every year. Now a new study says these stents, which used to relieve chest pain, may be useless.

The study was published in The Lancet and reported on by the New York Times. It questions whether stents should be used as often or even at all to treat chest pain.

The patients in the study were either treated with a stent or without one. All of them were put on a high dose blood clotting drugs. Six weeks later researchers found there was relatively no difference between the two groups of patients.

Dr. David Wohns Chief of Cardiovascular Medicine at Spectrum Health Medical Group gave WZZM this statement about the study:

Randomized controlled trials such as these are the scientific foundations for our practice.  While challenging the role of stents, the details are important and highlight the shortcomings of this trial. This study applies only to a small minority of patients receiving stents in the US or at Spectrum Health. For single vessel coronary disease in stable patients (the study population), the relief of symptoms with medical therapy is a successful endpoint in our practice. This study would have far greater implications if this was PCI (stenting) vs medical therapy (as opposed to optimal medical therapy followed by stenting vs medical therapy, a practice that is rarely undertaken).  So, this is an interesting study that will undoubtedly trigger conversation and discussion, but has little applicability based upon the design and patient population.”

Dr. Wohns went on to say the study was too small to verify whether there should be a change in heart stent protocol and more research needs to be done.

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