To stent or not to stent, that is the question.
And based on a whole lot of thorough research, the answer appears to be a resounding “NO” — unless, that is, you’re having a heart attack.
Being that hundreds of thousands of Americans get a stent every year for chest pain, however, that’s a whole lot of unnecessary surgery going on.
But as we told you this past spring, despite the fact your doctor may insist that it’s crucial to get one, huge numbers of these procedures are totally uncalled-for, and they can result in some terrible complications… including ones that can kill you.
Now, a just-out study from the UK has found, once again, that all this unnecessary stenting is doing nothing but putting heart patients at risk.
While that should change the way docs treat blocked arteries — getting a physician to change his ways is like turning an oil tanker around!
So, here’s what you need to know in case you’re being hustled into this dangerous surgical procedure that won’t do a lick of good in helping your condition.
The placebo effect?
Jim Stevens had already been wheeled into the operating room and prepped to receive a stent. But, lucky for him, his doctor was sent an advance copy of this new research from the Imperial College in London.
The information was so convincing that, as his cardiologist said, he “took him off the table.”
Although these findings have astonished many doctors (some saying it’s “unbelievable”), you can bet they’re not going to make much of a dent in the numbers of this overused, annual procedure — judging by how things have gone in the past.
For years now, research has shown that stenting is totally ineffective for chest pain. Back in 2007, for example, it was discovered that stents don’t stop heart attacks or save lives from heart disease. (So, what’s the point?!)
Another review of the procedure done earlier this year prompted a professor of medicine to call it “one of the bleakest chapters in the history of Western medicine.”
Now, this new study looked at 200 patients whose physical activity was extremely limited due to a blocked artery.
After six weeks of being treated with non-surgical remedies aimed at reducing chest pain, some had actual stents inserted, and others got a “sham” procedure done in which no stent was used.
The study was “double-blind,” widely considered the gold standard for medical research: Which patients got which was kept a secret, both from them and medical staff.
After another six weeks (during which the subjects were all prescribed blood thinners), both groups were given a thorough examination.
And… everyone reported feeling better. On top of that, both groups were able to pass a treadmill test with flying colors.
The researchers reported no real differences between them, something experts said could be due to the power of the “placebo effect.”
In an editorial that accompanied the study’s publication in The Lancet, two doctors went so far as to say that “all cardiology guidelines should be revised” as a result. One of them, Dr. Rita F. Redberg of the University of California, San Francisco, commented that “stents should only be used for people having heart attacks” — especially given the risks of the procedure, which include “death.”
Stenting can also damage a blood vessel, trigger an arrhythmia, and cause the treated artery to become blocked again if excessive tissue grows where the stent was placed. Plus that, the dye injected into you that allows your doctor to see where the catheter is going can result in a severe allergic reaction and even damage your kidneys.
That’s certainly a very big risk to take for a procedure that’s doing basically nothing!
But if you want to know how set in stone doctors are with stenting, U.S. cardiologists said it was unbelievable that ethics boards allowed a study like this to deprive some patients of receiving a stent!
Perhaps one day, doctors will wake up and realize that, in most cases, it’s the stenting itself that’s the sham!
So, unless your doctor is as on the ball as Jim Stevens’ was, it’s crucial to know that if you’re told that a stent is in your future, getting a second or third opinion is a lot more than a good idea. It could save your life.
And as for natural ways to reduce arterial plaque, we told you last year how researchers out of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center discovered in four randomized studies that patients on aged garlic supplements not only effectively reduced the accumulation of “soft plaque” in arteries, but they prevented new plaque from forming — without any risks or debilitating side effects.
When a follow-up of the patients was done a year later, the total plaque accumulation for the ones given 2,400 mg of aged garlic extract daily was found to have slowed by a whopping 80 percent, and the amounts of previously existing plaque had also been reduced.
Now that’s something that really works!
“‘Unbelievable’: Heart stents fail to ease chest pain” Gina Kilata, November 2, 2017, The New York Times, nytimes.com