Many Heart Surgeries for Blocked Arteries Are Unwarranted, Finds New Federal Study

The research evaluated more than 5000 people for a median of three and a half years.
Loukia Papadopoulos

A new federal study is challenging decades of common medical knowledge when it comes to heart surgeries. The research is revealing that dangerous operations like bypasses may be unwarranted as they may not contribute to decreasing the risk of heart attacks.


Drug therapy is enough

Drug therapy alone seems to be enough as people who have had the surgeries were not less prone to heart attacks than those who didn't. The study which evaluated more than 5,000 people found that surgeries were more useful for those suffering from chest pain, or angina. 

“This is an extraordinarily important trial,” said Dr. Glenn Levine, director of cardiac care at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, to The New York Times.

This is not the first study to indicate that stents and bypasses are overused but previous research was deemed inconclusive and flawed. The new study, however, called Ischemia, was intended to settle the matter.

It followed patients for a median of three and a half years and was the first to take into account today’s drug regimens.

Dr. Judith Hochman, senior associate dean of clinical sciences at N.Y.U. Langone Health and chair of the study told The New York Times she had "expected that those with the most severe chest pain and blockages would benefit from stents or bypasses." But “there was no suggestion that any subgroup benefited,” she added.

Medical therapy

Ischemia’s results are in line with today's understanding of heart disease that finds that medical therapy treats the entire arterial system whereas stents and bypasses target only obviously narrowed areas.

“You don’t have to rush to the cath lab because, OMG, you will have a heart attack soon or drop dead,” said Dr. David Maron, director of preventive cardiology at Stanford University, and the study’s co-chair. “If you have had no angina in the last month, there is no benefit to an invasive strategy.”

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