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Aug 27, 2013

Predicting Risk Among Angioplasty Patients

Study helps estimate the danger patients face when undergoing angioplasty.

Today, percutaneous coronary intervention (commonly referred to as angioplasty) is more safe and effective than ever before. Once a relatively new way to unblock clogged arteries in the heart, this life-saving procedure is now performed more than 1.2 million times a year in the United States. Not only is it minimally invasive, requiring just a small incision, it’s generally safe for most patients. But according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, risk of death can vary drastically depending on the health of each patient.

This study compared the risk of death among more than 1.2 million patients that underwent angioplasty procedures in the U.S. between 2009 and 2011. After analyzing study data, researchers found that only 43% of cases were elective, meaning less than half chose to undergo the procedure to help prevent a heart attack. The other 57% of cases were performed in emergency situations to restore normal blood flow in patients suffering heart attacks.

Not surprisingly, this study showed that patients electing to undergo angioplasty had the lowest risk of death (0.2%) compared to non-elective patients (0.6-2.3%). But what researchers found most interesting was that a very small proportion of non-elective patients (less than 3% of all patients) had conditions that made them extremely unstable, and their risk of death ranged anywhere from 15-66%.

The good news is that risk of death is still very low for most patients undergoing angioplasty, especially those electing to have the procedure. The conditions that greatly increase risk of death are extremely rare and in this study, only occurred in less than 3% of patients. And although researchers found that mortality risk is much higher in very unstable patients, this study shows that survival rates have actually improved among these high-risk patients in the last few years. By understanding survival rates, experts can work with patients to make more informed decisions regarding treatment options and the hope is that with time, angioplasty will become increasingly safe for all patients, including those that are the highest risk.
Read the full article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI)?

  • Percutaneous coronary intervention (often referred to as balloon angioplasty or simply angioplasty) is often recommended for patients diagnosed with diseased arteries of the heart (coronary arteries) or for patients suffering a heart attack. Percutaneous coronary intervention includes a variety of procedures developed to compress fat and cholesterol build-up in the arteries, known as plaque deposits, to help increase the size of narrowed or blocked arteries and improve blood and oxygen flow to the heart.
  • When is percutaneous coronary intervention performed?
  • Most often, percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) is performed to minimize damage to the heart and restore normal blood flow following a heart attack. However, PCI can also be performed in patients with narrowed or blocked arteries to help reduce chest pain and prevent heart attack.


Phillip Cartozian is CardioSmart

More than 20 years ago, Phillip Cartozian had two heart attacks and quintuple bypass surgery. Afterward, he changed his diet completely and ate fruit, vegetables and fish every day.

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