Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Unnecessary Surgery

A study by US researchers has turned up surprising results – medical care delayed by three or more days gives no benefit to heart attack survivors with mild or no symptoms. The results are specifically aimed at procedures to open clogged arteries, the most widely used treatments today.

Almost all heart attack patients with completely blocked arteries are recommended angioplasty or the procedure to clear arteries if they seek treatment within the first 12 hours following a heart attack. This early treatment helps restore blood flow to the heart. It also preserves the heart muscle and reduces the risks of death due to heart failure.

However the treatment is effective only if given during the 12-hour window. Currently around 30% of acute heart attack patients arrive at the hospital after this period. Writing in the New England Journal of Medicines, the researchers said there is no additional benefit gained from restoring blood flow after three days as compared to standard drug therapy. There is no reduction in the risk of death, a second heart attack or heart failure.

Perhaps the most fascinating thing to me is, a former colleague observed this phenomena some time ago. That was approximately 20 years ago.

So what took the NEJM 20 years to figure that out?
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