For decades, tens of thousands of heart patients with blocked coronary artery issues have been treated with highly invasive and moderately successful heart surgeries such as angioplasty or bypass surgery without debating for any alternatives. It has always been believed that these surgeries were the only way a heart patient with blockages could live a prolonged healthy life.

However, this notion was strongly challenged in the annual meeting of the American heart association when a group of scientists presented their three and a half years-long large-scale study, titled ‘Ischemia’, suggesting that “patients who received drug therapy alone did not experience heart attacks or deaths as often as the ones who received bypass surgery or stents”. The findings of this research also hold true for people with severely blocked arteries. 

The ‘Ischemia’ Research Study

Project Ischemia followed 5179 participants for around three and a half years.

The participants suffered from a range of moderate to severe blockages with a history of chest pain. 20% of the participants experienced chest pain at least once a week.

Most patients were subjected to optimal therapy, including statins, blood pressure-lowering drugs, aspirin, and Beta-Blockers, to reduce the heart rate and protect them from a second heart attack.
These patients were then randomly assigned with medical therapy either with or without intervention.

The number of patients who died after choosing intervention was 145, while 144 patients who chose only medical therapy lost their lives. Moreover, 276 patients in the intervention group suffered from heart attacks, while 314 patients from the medical therapy group had heart attacks too.

This result was statistically insignificant.

Conclusions of this Research:

This research suggested that before you decide on undergoing any heart surgery, you must consult a qualified physician to evaluate your symptoms. You can have an angiogram if you develop symptoms suddenly.
And if the symptoms remain after medical therapy, you can opt for a heart procedure. However, if the pain vanishes for more than a month after medical therapy, then no other procedures are needed.
This study does not intend to prove that angioplasty or bypass are useless, but they must be used only in appropriated situations when drugs don’t have any effect on the patient.
There are situations when such surgical procedures help in improving patient’s lifespan, like sucking out clots from a patient’s artery when they have a heart attack, or performing a bypass when the left main coronary artery is blocked.
As these procedures help only in particular situations, it is essential to diagnose the symptoms before deciding whether a surgical procedure is necessary.
If you wish to learn more about the alternatives and preventive measures for heart diseases, visit the Poona Preventive Cardiology Centre

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