stents

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Stent Vs. Meds: Do You Even Know Your Options?

Credit: groverflanagan.blogspot.com

A bit more from today’s Boston Globe’s health bounty: Chelsea Conaboy smartly juxtaposes two recent studies about heart disease care here.

In a nutshell: A review of previous studies found that “implanting stents, tubes used to prop open a blocked artery, in patients with stable coronary artery disease was no more effective than using medications.” (That review was in the Archives of Internal Medicine of Feb. 27, and here’s the New York Times report.)

A day later, a study in the Journal of General Medicine found, as Chelsea sums it up, “Few Medicare patients who had a coronary artery stent implanted said doctors spent time discussing alternatives.” The press release for the study was even a bit more dramatic, describing the findings like this:

Nine out of 10 Medicare patients who received a stent procedure for coronary artery disease report their physicians didn’t present them with an alternative of managing their condition with medication, according to results of a survey published online today by the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

The study concludes that patients are not always fully informed of their treatment options, and physicians should increase efforts to involve patients in decisions before performing elective procedures. For example, stenting can provide relief from chest pain, but comparable benefits for most patients can be achieved with good medical management and lifestyle changes, as noted in another study published last week.

My takeaway: If your doctor doesn’t mention alternatives to stents, you might want to ask…