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Many Heart Patients Place False Hope in Angioplasty
Date:9/8/2010

By Ellin Holohan
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Many heart patients harbor the misguided notion that angioplasty, a common procedure to open clogged arteries, will also cut their risk of heart attacks and death, a new study shows.

In fact, the evidence suggests that angioplasty only reduces angina (cardiac-linked chest pain) in stable heart patients -- people whose condition has not changed recently and who are not experiencing a heart attack. The procedure does not reduce the risk of heart attack or death for these patients.

However, the new study found that 88 percent of stable patients who underwent angioplasty at a hospital in Massachusetts thought the procedure would reduce their risk of heart attack. And two-thirds of the patients didn't even suffer the kind of pain that angioplasty would likely remedy, the study authors noted.

Furthermore, most patients stuck to their beliefs even after spending time with a cardiologist who explained the risks and benefits to them, and had them sign an informed consent form prior to the angioplasty.

The study "shows the disconnect between what doctors know and what patients understand. In order to have real informed consent, patients have to understand not just the risks, but also the benefits of whatever treatment is proposed," said study author Dr. Michael Rothberg, of the Division of General Medicine and Geriatrics at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass.

The findings were published in the Sept. 7 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

During angioplasty, a tube is inserted at the groin and snaked up to the affected artery, where a balloon opens the blockage. A stent (a flexible mesh tube) is often left in place to help prop open the artery and maintain blood flow. Angioplasty involves some risk but the rate of death during the procedure is less than 1 percent, experts note.

In the study, patients
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