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Experts Say Heart Stents Used More Often Than Necessary

The New York Times recently reported about studies show that heart stent placement, called an angioplasty, is among the most overused medical interventions. The insertion of a heart stent, a small metal mesh tube that is used to open a narrowed artery, can be lifesaving in emergency situations. However, studies by the American Medical Association and the Joint Commission reported that stents are often implanted in those who gain little, if any, benefit.

Heart stents are sometimes used for patients who have stable coronary artery disease, which causes chest pain during physical exertion, but rarely otherwise. In these cases, studies show that a stent usually offers little more benefit than taking medication alone, yet the $30,000 procedure can put patients at risk of blood vessel wall tears and major bleeding, among other complications.

The continued use of heart stents in unnecessary situations is attributed to inconsistent knowledge of their purpose. While angioplasty is often performed to relieve buildup in the arteries, experts claim that narrowed arteries are often not the cause of heart attacks. Therefore, stents do not necessarily reduce the likelihood of a heart attack and may cause additional complications. Dr. Michael B. Rothberg, vice chair for research at the Cleveland Clinic reported that most vulnerable plaques are often impossible to identify until they cause a rupture and lead to blood clotting. Heart stents often fail to treat the underlying issue and only repair a small part of the artery.

A recent study published in The Archives of Internal Medicine found that many doctors perform angioplasty in order to alleviate patient anxiety. Others worried that they would feel guilty and responsible if the patient had a heart attack after deciding not to use a stent. Still others refuse to believe that relieving a narrowed artery is not always helpful.

You should consult with a medical professional before making any changes to your current medical treatment. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury as a result of defective medical equipment or medical malpractice, you should contact a Lopez McHugh attorney for a free consultation.