News Headlines Article

Putting Stents to the Test
The New York Times

Millions of Americans have had stents — small wire cages — inserted in their coronary arteries to prop them open. And many are convinced the devices are protecting them from heart attacks. After all, a partly blocked artery is now cleared, and the pain in a heart muscle starved of blood often vanishes once the artery is open again.

But while stents unquestionably save lives of patients in the throes of a heart attack or a threatened heart attack, there is no convincing evidence that stents reduce heart attack risk for people suffering from the chest pains known as stable angina. These are people who feel tightness or discomfort walking up a hill, for example, because a partly blocked coronary artery is depriving their heart of blood. But the pain or tightness goes away if they stop and rest or just stay still. And there is a reasonable argument that drugs — cholesterol-lowering statins in particular — might be just as good at reducing such pain.

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