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Stents Ease Angina but Fail to Stretch Survival

PCI techniques to place stents can reduce pain from angina but don't help people with stable heart disease live longer than those being treated with drugs.

Angioplasty to place a stent or several stents in coronary arteries is known medically as percutaneous coronary intervention, or PCI.

This procedure is used to open blocked coronary arteries and treat chest pain due to angina. Doctors did not know for sure whether or not it would help people live longer.

PCI No Better Than Medication:

Now long-term results show no difference in survival between people randomly assigned to get drug treatment or PCI for their angina. The study included more than 2,000 people with stable heart disease who were followed up for as long as 15 years.

There were 284 deaths in the group that got PCI and 277 in the group getting medical therapy. That is not a statistically significant difference.

Treat Angina with Drugs:

The researchers point out that these results are consistent with those from several previous trials. Until data show an advantage to angioplasty and stents for angina, it may make more sense to treat this heart condition with medication.

New England Journal of Medicine, Nov. 12, 2015

It is important to point out that stents are sometimes placed when a person is in the midst of a heart attack. That situation is quite different, and these results do not apply to it.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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