The New York Times has reported in November 2017 on a new study in the journal Lancet. This study found that while cardiac stents can be lifesaving in opening arteries in patients having a heart attack, the devices are ineffective in relieving chest pain.

Stents are tiny wire cages to open arteries. They are useful when patients are having heart attacks or unstable symptoms, however, they are often deployed when patients have no symptoms just blockages. More than 500,000 had stents placed last year. Stents do carry risk. They are expensive.

This study placed stents in some and had sham procedures in others. The study found no real difference in the groups who all had blockages and symptoms related to these blockages.

Of course, this has raised a bit of controversy in the cardiology world. There have long been questions regarding the effectiveness of stents. A 2007 study led by Dr. Boden and published in the New England Journal of Medicine found stents did not prevent heart attacks or deaths from heart disease. Yet stent procedures continue. Cardiovascular disease is not being cured by stent procedures.

Cardiovascular disease is a diffuse, complicated disease. Stents do damage blood vessels. I tell my patients our goal is to halt or reverse disease and not merely treat a symptom, though this may be necessary in some situations. The sham procedure also raises the question about belief systems in the treatment of disease. The mind plays a large role in the physiology of cardiovascular disease.

Many are now rethinking how they practice. This has just given me more evidence to use in educating and motivating patients to be more proactive and treat the causes of cardiovascular disease. Ask your cardiologist about all treatment options especially if you are not having a heart attack or having active symptoms.