MONDAY, Aug. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Limiting the use of expensive drug-eluting (coated) stents does not increase patients' risk of heart attack or death, but it can save the U.S. health care system hundreds of millions of dollars a year, a new study suggests.
A stent is a mesh tube used to keep an artery open after a procedure to unblock clogged or narrowed arteries (angioplasty). A drug-eluting stent is coated with medicine to prevent blood clots. Research has shown that drug-eluting stents are better than bare-metal stents at preventing re-narrowing of arteries, according to background information in the study.
The current study examined the effects of selective use of drug-eluting stents, which began in the United States in 2007. The researchers analyzed data from 10,144 patients who underwent angioplasty at 55 medical centers across the nation between 2004 and 2007.
The use of drug-eluting stents decreased from 92 percent of angioplasty patients in 2004-2006 to 68 percent in 2007, but rates of heart attack and death remained virtually the same. Procedures to re-treat a blockage at the same coronary artery site increased from 4.1 percent to 5.1 percent.
The researchers also found that selective use of drug-eluting stents saves the nation's health care system about $400 million a year.
The study is published online Aug. 15 in the journal Circulation.
"The bottom-line was that using drug-eluting stents in a relatively unselected way was only resulting in marginal improvement compared to more selective use," senior author Dr. David J. Cohen, director of cardiovascular research at Saint Luke's Mid America Heart and Vascular Institute in Kansas City, Mo., said in a journal news release.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about stents.
-- Robert Preidt
SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Aug. 15, 2011
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