BARCELONA, Spain — It’s been five years since drug-eluting stents — tiny, drug-coated coils that prevent unwanted cell growth in the heart’s arteries — became the darlings of interventional cardiologists with the use of the $3,000 devices implanted into 800,000 chests a year in the United States. But, now, a stunning series of reports at the World Congress of Cardiology in Barcelona, Spain, appears to have turned those little darlings into the ‘black sheep’ of the family. Controversial reports indicate that compared to bare metal stents, patients implanted with the newer, drug-eluting stents have up to a 38-percent greater risk of death three years following their procedures. ‘This is madness,’ said Salim Yusuf, professor of medicine at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, a longtime critic of overuse of the angioplasty and stenting. ‘We have been chasing our tails trying to fix one problem after another. We have lost our clinical judgment. We have let the cowboys decide who gets these devices.’ When angioplasty was first developed 30 years ago, doctors were enraptured by the technique that allowed for relief of angina — chest pain — without requiring open-heart surgery. In angioplasty, an incision is made […]

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