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Do Heart Stents Work? What You Need to Know

Do Heart Stents Work? What You Need to Know
From TIME - November 3, 2017

Heart treatments have improved vastly in recent years, but heart disease remains a leading killer of Americans. While researchers are constantly looking for ways to make current treatments better, a new study found that people with chest pain who receive stentsdevices that open narrowed heart arteriesarent necessarily better off than people who dont get them.

In a new study published in the Lancet, 200 people with chest pain were randomly assigned to either receive a stent, which requires a surgical procedure, or undergo a sham procedure in which the doctors only threaded a catheter through without inserting a stent. Six weeks later, they evaluated all of the people on a treadmill test. There were no significant differences in how much exercise the two groups could do, or in how much chest pain they reported.

While the study raises a lot of questions, heart experts say the results dont mean stents arent safe. Heres what you should keep in mind if youre worried about getting a stent or already have one.

What is a heart stent?

Stents are tiny mesh devices made of wire that doctors insert in narrowed heart arteries to prop them open. Stents can restore strong blood flow to the heart. For stent makers, its become a big business. Each year, half a million people get stents inserted to relieve chest pain or angina.

What is angina?

Angina is the medical term for chest pains that can occur when blood flow to the heart is compromised. Chest pains are usually caused by blood vessels in the heart that become narrowed and reduce the flow of blood to the heart.

Are heart stents dangerous?

Stents are relatively safe, especially if doctors carefully select the right people to get them.

The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology do not recommend stents for all people who report chest pains. The groups advise doctors to evaluate how risky the chest pains are, and in most cases they suggest starting with medications to control cholesterol and blood pressure and blood vessel flexibility.

How do they put a stent in the heart?

How long do stents last?

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