Health Team

Study Shows Heart Stents Safe, Effective

Doctors use stents to open blocked heart arteries, but recent negative reports about stent safety have caused concern. Now a new study claims stents are largely safe and effective.

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Leon Kampe felt pressure on his chest and shortness of breath. During subsequent testing, his doctor found three clogged arteries.

"In this case, our options came down to three stents or bypass surgery," said Dr. Keith Benzuly of Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Benzuly and Kampe chose the stents. In a procedure called angioplasty, a cardiologist uses a balloon to open the blocked artery with a wire catheter inserted through a small incision in the thigh or wrist. Then they slide a stent in to keep the area open. A drug coating on the stent is supposed to keep the the artery from re-clotting.

Leon Kampe's procedure was considered "off-label" or untested because stents are only approved for use in simpler cases. But a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows out of 5,000 patients in a 140 hospitals, stents were used off label half the time. Researchers wanted to know if the off-label use was dangerous.

"The chance of dying, the chance of having a heart attack, the chance of clotting of your stent was no different in off label or untested use compared to standard," said study author Dr. Nirat Beohar of Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Almost 5 percent of patients needed another angioplasty, but Beohar said that number is low considering patients who got off -label stents were the sickest patients.

"Once the decision is made to treat these difficult patients with difficult coronary arteries with drug-eluding stents, the doctor and the patient can feel reassured that based on our study results, they would do well," said Dr. Beohar.

Kampe believes his doctor made the right decision for him.

"I have faith that he knows what he's doing and I feel great and I can't wait to get out of here," Kampe said.

This study was funded by a company that produces stents and by the National Cancer Institute.

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 Credits

Allen Mask, M.D., Reporter
Rick Armstrong, Photographer
Dana Franks, Web Editor

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