Stents are commonly used for stable chest pain — but the devices may not be helping.
Placing stents in arteries has become one of the most common treatments for chest pain in use today. I must know a dozen or more people who’ve had it done in the last few years. And it seems they don’t actually work.
We’ve known for about ten years now that stents do not reduce the risk of death from heart disease. Patients treated with stents have the same mortality rate and risk of heart attack as did patients treated with more conservative and less invasive treatments. So stents do little or nothing to prevent heart attacks or extending the life expectancy of the patient.
Stents are still in use to treat stable angina patients as a method of reducing pain. And this Lancet study indicates that they don’t work for that either. By the end of the study they found that there were no clinically important differences between those treated with stents, and those treated with a sham procedure that actually did nothing.
Putting a stent in someone is not a risk free procedure, either. About one out of fifty will have serious complications such as stroke, heart attack, and even death.
Stents aren’t the only treatment in widespread use that seems to do little or nothing to actually help the patient. The Milwaukee Journal ran a series a while back looking at drugs used to treat cancer that were approved in the last ten or twenty years, and found a very troubling trend. While some of the drugs did slow the growth of tumors, in the long run they did nothing to extend the life of the patient, did nothing to improve the patient’s quality of life, and in many cases caused very serious side effects.