Heart Stents Fail to Ease Chest Pain, says new study

This could mean that medications alone could be enough to treat certain kinds of patients, instead of the more expensive stent that opens arteries.

The study was based on a clinical trial in Britain involving 200 patients with a blocked artery and angina. "But there was no real difference between the patients, the researchers found".

But to test the effectiveness of a device inserted into the body against a placebo, patients who receive the placebo treatment must be led to believe that they could have been operated on? what's known as a "sham" procedure. The conclusions might also differ after a longer period, and perhaps there will be a difference between the ones that received the stents during the procedures and the subjects that didn't receive them.

Patients who received stents did not have more improvements in angina or quality of life than those who did not receive a stent. Angina is the medical term for chest pain, which is usually caused when fatty plaques build up in the arteries.

Inserting a stent costs between $11,000 and $41,000, the Times said. In this scenario, the sugar pill presents virtually no risk to the study participant who swallows it, and scientists go on to compare their results with people who received the active medicine, in the hope of being able to separate its true physical effect from its placebo effect.

"While these findings are interesting and deserve more attention, they do not mean that patients should never undergo the [stent] procedure for stable angina".

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Following the procedure, both groups of patients then took powerful drugs to prevent blood clots. For those that had a blocked artery, the stents improved blood flow.

Writing in a commentary that accompanied the report, two cardiologists said the "landmark" study has implications that "are profound and far-reaching".

David Maron, MD, a cardiologist at Stanford (Calif.) University who was not involved with the research, told the Times the study was well conducted, but said further clarification is needed regarding the use of stents for chest pain relief in areas not explored by the current study.

The placebo effect is created when a patient is given fake "treatment" like a sugar pill and starts feeling better because of the psychological effect. Health experts said that the results should also get medical practitioners to think twice before recommending their patients to undergo the procedure.

According to Brown and Redberg, each year over a half-million patients in the United States and Europe undergo stent treatment - and a sizeable minority will experience potentially unsafe complications that can include heart attack, kidney injury, stroke and even death.

The American Heart Association has more on angina.

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