In a recent study published in the British medical journal Lancet last week, a startling finding was revealed about cardiac stents. These wire mesh cage devices are routinely used to treat those in the midst of a heart attack or with blockages and those patient's with exertional chest pain. More than 500,000 people worldwide receive stents every year for chest pain alone, according to a New York Times article published on November 2, 2017. This is a big business for device manufacturers and interventional cardiologists with the procedure costing upwards of $41,000.
To test the efficacy of stents for treating chest pain, researchers designed a study of 200 participants with severely blocked coronary arteries that had limited their physical activities. Of the 200, 50% received a stent and the other 50% did not--but were told a stent had been implanted.
Remarkably, six weeks after the real or sham procedure, those who did not receive stents reported feeling just as well as those who were actually stented. Since every procedure to implant a stent carries the risk of death, dissection of an artery, etc.,--many are now saying that stents should only be used for those who are in the midst of a heart attack. If this study does not change cardiac practice guidelines for implantation of stents, we may see more malpractice lawsuits from those injured by a stent procedure for lack of informed consent.