Study challenges angioplasty benefits

Despite widespread beliefs to the contrary, drugs may be just as effective as angioplasties when it comes to treating non-emergency heart conditions, according to a new study. The study, which was presented at the American Cardiology Conference, concluded that while angioplasties are still indicated for heart patients in crisis, this procedure neither saved lives nor prevented heart attacks in non-emergency heart patients. What's more, the study suggests that angioplasty only provides a short-term, mild reduction of chest pain for these patients. Right now, more than a half a million people get angioplasties each year. Given these results, however, many heart patients would do better if treated with drugs like statins, ACE inhibitors and calcium channel blockers rather than receiving an angioplasty or bypass surgery, the study's authors said. Only one-third of patients who start out with drug treatment progress to needing angioplasties or bypasses, according to researchers, who studied 2,287 patients in the U.S. and Canada who had major blockages.

To find out more about the study:
- read this Associated Press item