Heart Stents May Be Useless At Relieving Chest Pain: Study


Results of a new study have shown that heart stents are no more effective than medicines when it comes to relieving chest pain.

Stents For Relieving Angina

Stents are tiny wire tubes that are inserted into the narrow or weak arteries to prop them open and increase blood flow. Every year, about half a million people get stents inserted to relieve angina, or chest pain that occurs when the blood flow to the heart is compromised. Inserting these devices costs between $11,000 and $41,000 at hospitals in the United States.

Placebo Effect From Stents?

While stents may help save lives after a heart attack. The new study showed that those who get them inserted to ease chest pain may actually be experiencing a placebo effect.

In the experiment reported in a study published in the journal Lancet, researchers treated 200 people suffering from chest pain with drugs such as statin and aspirin to reduce the risk of heart attack, and medications that relieve chest pain by opening the blood vessels or slowing the heart.

The participants were also randomly assigned to either receive a stent, which calls for a surgical procedure, or undergo a sham procedure.

In the experiment, the patients who received the stent didn't show any difference in chest pain symptoms or enhanced exercise performance compared to patients who underwent a sham procedure.

After six weeks, the researchers evaluated the participants on a treadmill test and found that there were no significant differences on the amount of exercise the two groups could do or how much pain they reported.

"In patients with medically treated angina and severe coronary stenosis, percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) did not increase exercise time by more than the effect of a placebo procedure. The efficacy of invasive procedures can be assessed with a placebo control, as is standard for pharmacotherapy," the researchers wrote in their study, which was published on Nov. 2.

Implications Of The Study

The findings raised questions about whether stents should be used to treat chest pain. Health experts said that the results should also get medical practitioners to think twice before recommending their patients to undergo the procedure.

"Prudent physicians counsel their patients about all of their options and give the best medication therapy possible. When you do that, the number of people who actually need to have a stent is fairly modest," said Steven Nissen, from Cleveland Clinic.

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