KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Study Finds Heart Stents Often Overused

The research, which appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, finds overuse is prevalent regarding this invasive treatment, which tallies an estimated $12 billion a year in health care costs.

The Wall Street Journal: Heart Treatment Overused
Outside of heart attacks, doctors are often too quick to use a common $20,000 procedure to treat patients suffering from coronary artery disease, a new study suggests. About 600,000 angioplasty procedures, which almost always involve placement of a tiny metal tube called a stent, are done in the U.S. each year. Roughly 70 percent of these procedures are performed on patients suffering symptoms of a heart attack and aren't medically controversial. But the remainder are done on stable patients who are suffering mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Of those, 50 percent are deemed appropriate, 38 percent uncertain and 12 percent inappropriate, the report says (Winslow and Carreyrou, 7/6).

Reuters: Many U.S. Heart Stents Inappropriate Study Finds
One in eight U.S. patients who have non-emergency stenting procedures to clear blocked arteries in the heart are likely to see more harm than good from the procedure, researchers said Tuesday. The findings stoke concern about overuse of the invasive treatment, which costs the nation some $12 billion a year and offers few benefits over drug therapy unless the patient has suffered a heart attack. "More than half of the inappropriate cases were in patients who didn't have any symptoms at all," said Dr. Paul Chan, whose results appear in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Joelving, 7/5). 

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