Heart Stents Are Still Being Overused in 2013

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The expected benefits of stenting in stable coronary artery disease (a reduction in the risk of death or heart attack),  is not supported by its widespread usage and non-medical factors sometimes play a major influence on physician decision making.

On August 15, 2013 the NYTimes published an article in tune with a number of articles we have previously published on this website, most recently in a report on the recent stent implantation in President Bush:

Far too often, studies show, stents continue to be implanted in patients who stand to gain little if any benefit. Elective procedures performed on patients with stable coronary artery disease, a type that can cause chest pain and other symptoms during physical exertion but generally not at other times. Studies show that in these particular patients, inserting a stent is generally no better at preventing a heart attack or an early death than taking medication alone.

And yet many patients continue to undergo such procedures, even when there is the prospect of harm and the unlikelihood of benefit. The two groups that issued the report, the American Medical Association and the Joint Commission, said that roughly 1 in 10 elective angioplasty procedures performed nationwide may be “inappropriate,” and another third questionable. 

In some cases, experts say, doctors are motivated to use stents for financial reasons, because of the large revenue streams that stent procedures can bring hospitals. (The operation typically costs around $30,000, and in rare circumstances it can cause tears in blood vessel walls, major bleeding and other problems.).”

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