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Heart artery stents prove as effective as bypass surgery, study shows

Posted November 23

A major new heart study involving 3,200 patients shows greater hope for people with a critical heart artery blockage.

The study followed the patients' progress for 5 to 7 years and showed the best outcomes included collaboration between patient, surgeon and cardiologist.

In 2007, Darlene Wade of Goldsboro was 52 years old and had battled obesity and diabetes along with chest pain that her doctor said was caused by gastric reflux.

"I went to get the mail one day, and, coming back, I had a choking sensation," Wade said.

A stress test led to heart catheterization, which revealed an emergency situation.

"It showed that my left main artery was like 98 percent blocked," Wade said. "It was just a heart attack waiting to happen."

The circumstances could lead to the worst kind of heart attack, according to University of North Carolina cardiologist Dr. Joel Schneider.

"Well over 60 percent of patients die because of disease in this critical artery in the heart," Schneider said.

The severity of the disease is caused because the left main coronary artery supplies blood to the left circumflex and the left anterior descending artery, which feed two-thirds of the heart muscle.

Bypass surgery was once considered the only option, but later, medicated stents and improved techniques were offered to some patients. Now, a study published in the American Heart Association's journal "Circulation" shows both approaches work equally well.

"And the study found that if you work as a heart team, that is, if your surgeons and your cardiologists worked together to select the most appropriate therapy, that patients do phenomenally well," Schneider said.

Wade says her weight and diabetes put her at too a high risk for bypass surgery, so a stent was the recommendation.

Today, nine years later, she's doing well.

"I think I've become more active, and I can keep up with my 11-year-old granddaughter," Wade said.

The heart outcomes study also stressed the importance of taking heart medication as prescribed by your doctor. Patients who take the medication as prescribed have a better chance of surviving long term with no major complications than those who don't.

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