Do heart stents even work? New study finds they don't ease chest pain

By: Jason Lemon, For the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Updated:

Heart disease is still the leading cause of death in America and of the nearly 800,000 people suffering heart attacks each year, many receive heart stents as a treatment to relieve blocked arteries or chest pain.

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But according to newly published research, thousands of heart patients may be receiving stents unnecessarily.

While heart stents have become a common and go-to procedure for heart patients, a new study published in the journal “Lancet” by researchers in the United Kingdom suggests that the devices may do little to reduce chest pain discomfort.

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"All cardiology guidelines should be revised," doctors David L. Brown of Washington University School of Medicine and Rita F. Redberg of the University of California, San Francisco, wrote in an editorial published with the research.

Explaining the results, Rasha Al-Lamee, a lead author of the study and a researcher at the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, said that stents don't appear to bring any greater pain relief than medications.

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"Surprisingly, even though the stents improved blood supply, they didn't provide more relief of symptoms compared to drug treatments, at least in this patient group," Al-Lamee said in a statement.

As previously mentioned, heart stents are routinely inserted by doctors to treat blocked arteries, which is often a lifesaving procedure. And they are also regularly used to relieve chest pain.

But despite their popularity, one in 50 stent recipients has serious complications, including heart attacks, strokes, bleeding or even death.

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