They’ll tell you it’s the easiest surgery of your life. That you might even get to go home the same day.
But if you or a loved one is considering an angioplasty — where a balloon or stent is inserted to prop an artery open — there’s an urgent new warning you need to know about.
A new study has found that more than half of the angioplasties done each year (that’s 500,000 procedures) are completely unnecessary.
And researchers are warning that you could end up risking your health — or even your life — for a surgery that won’t add a single candle to your birthday cake.
But what they won’t tell you is that most folks who get angioplasties aren’t exactly in life-or-death situations.
You see, somewhere along the line, heart doctors everywhere figured out that the procedure was practically a license to print cash.
Just think about it. You’re in and out of the hospital in a day, the incision is small, and they get to bill your insurance company for tens of thousands of dollars.
The next thing you know, the mainstream started pushing angioplasties on every poor soul whose arteries weren’t as clean as a church floor.
And the results have often been tragic.
Like in the case of Pearl Sullivan, a New Jersey woman who was just getting some heart tests because of shortness of breath.
Her doctors ended up talking her into an angioplasty and ruptured one of her arteries. She never made it out of the hospital.
And it turns out Pearl is just one of half a million Americans a year — including maybe you or someone you know — who have been signed up for angioplasties they never needed.
A study in the New England Journal of Medicine followed more than 1,200 patients with stable heart disease. That means people who aren’t in emergency situations and who may have been living with chest pain or angina for years.
And after 15 years, the people who got angioplasties weren’t any more likely to survive than those who treated their heart troubles with medication and lifestyle changes.
That’s right. These poor patients suffered through the risks of clots, punctures, and infections (all possible complications that come with angioplasties) for a procedure that didn’t add five minutes to their lives.
And, as I told you, these stable heart patients make up more than half of the angioplasties being done each year.
That means too many heart patients are “getting the wrong message” when it comes to the benefits of angioplasties, said Dr. William Boden, a professor of medicine at Albany Medical College in New York.
These angioplasties are so pointless that even the American Heart Association — which has practically never met a heart surgery or drug it wouldn’t endorse — is warning against them.
An AHA spokesman said that the advantages of angioplasties have been over-hyped (I’ll second that!) and that there’s absolutely no proof that they’re any more effective than other less risky treatments.
The problem is that lots of docs treat an angioplasty like chicken soup for a cold. They’ll tell you it can’t hurt, right?
But the dangers are a lot more serious than most of us are ever told.
Dr. Steve Nissen of the Cleveland Clinic has warned that lots of smaller community hospitals are getting in on the angioplasty cash grab. And they might not have the training or resources to save your life if something goes wrong.
So if a doc is trying to convince you to get an angioplasty, always take the time to get a second opinion.
That’s something an untold numbers of families and patients now wish they had done.
“Angioplasty may not boost survival for some heart disease patients” Steven Reinberg, November 11, 2015, HealthDay, health.usnews.com