New study questions benefits of $10 billion angioplasty industry

Over recent months we've seen several studies that questioned the benefit of angioplasty in many of the cases in which it is used; with the number of angioplasties performed per year having increased to almost 800,000, however, it's worth revisiting.

The procedure costs nearly $12,000, results in a week in the hospital, and may not even be particularly effective in many of the cases it is used. When patients who are having chest pain but not an actual heart attack have an angioplasty, their pain often comes back within six months to a year after the procedure.

With drugs that can relieve the chest pain less expensively and with less risk, why do doctors give them angioplasties? Oftentimes, doctors simply don't do a thorough enough evaluation of the patient, new studies indicate. Also, patients sometimes think that an angioplasty is much more important to their survival than it actually is.

The newest study, called Clinical Outcomes Utilizing Revascularization and Aggressive Drug Evaluation, or COURAGE, followed over 2,000 patients at hospitals around the country with stable heart disease. It found that there was no significant difference in rates of death, heart attack, or stroke between patients who had medical therapy alone or those who had an angioplasty.

To learn more about the study:
- read this Kansas City Star article