Stents Save Coronaries, Not Lives

Coronary stents do not improve the long-term survival rates of heart patients but they "do provide a significant early and sustained reduction in the need for subsequent procedures to re-open the treated artery," according to a report presented by Duke cardiologist David Kandzari at the American Heart Association meeting.

Comment: If stents "provide a significant early and sustained reduction in the need for subsequent procedures to re-open the treated artery," stents are doing a pretty good job. The trouble, we would think, is that propping open a coronary artery with a stent is like putting a finger in the dike of atherosclerosis. What is needed is to halt or reverse the atherosclerotic process entirely and that cannot be done by a small mechanical device.

Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors, MedicineNet.com

Related MedicineNet Links


Coronary Stents Do Not Improve Long-Term Survival

DURHAM, N.C. -- While the placement of stents in newly reopened coronary arteries has been shown to reduce the need for repeat angioplasty procedures, researchers from the Duke Clinical Research Institute have found that stents have no impact on mortality over the long term.

In the largest such analysis of its kind, the Duke researchers said their findings have important economic and clinical implications for physicians who are deciding whether their heart patients should receive coronary artery bypass surgery, or less-invasive angioplasty, which includes the placement of a stent.

Stents, which were introduced in the U.S. in 1994, are tiny mesh tubes that are inserted at the site of a blockage in a coronary artery that has been opened during balloon angioplasty. The procedure seeks to prevent the artery from becoming blocked again, a process known as restenosis. These blockages, caused by atherosclerotic plaque, can starve the heart of oxygen-rich blood and lead to a heart attack.

Duke cardiologist David Kandzari, M.D., who presented the results of the Duke analysis Nov.7, 2004, at the American Heart Association's annual scientific sessions in New Orleans, said the findings on mortality rates should also be expected to hold true for the latest generation of drug-eluting stents. These stents, which were introduced in 2003, are coated with a drug that keeps blood clots from forming inside them.

"We have found in our long-term analysis that stents do provide a significant early and sustained reduction in the need for subsequent procedures to re-open the treated artery," Kandzari said. "However, we also found that stents do not have any influence on long-term survival.

"Since earlier studies have shown that new drug-eluting stents can lessen the incidence of restenosis, we would expect the need for repeat procedures to decline even more as these stents become more widely used," Kandzari continued. "While earlier trials of drug-eluting stents have demonstrated a significant reduction in repeat procedures, they still have shown no differences in mortality compared with more conventional stents."

Specifically, the researchers found that over the average seven-year follow-up period of their study, 19 percent of patients who received a stent needed another revascularization procedure in the treated artery, compared to 27 percent for those who did not receive a stent. However, the long-term mortality rate for those receiving a stent was 19.9 percent vs. 20.4 percent for those who did not, a disparity which did not statistically differ.

For their analysis, the researchers consulted the Duke Database for Cardiovascular Disease, which keeps detailed clinical data on all heart patients receiving treatment at Duke. The researchers identified 1,288 matched pairs of patients who underwent either balloon angioplasty alone or stenting -- yet all had a similar likelihood of receiving a stent based on their clinical and demographic characteristics.