Stents, bypass surgery offer only limited benefits for millions with heart disease, study finds

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PHILADELPHIA — Stents and coronary artery bypass surgery are no more effective than intensive drug treatment and better health habits in preventing millions of Americans from heart attacks and death, a large study found, shedding new light on a major controversy in cardiology.

Researchers and doctors have fiercely debated for years how best to treat people who have narrowed coronary arteries but aren’t suffering acute symptoms.

But stents or bypass surgery work better than medicine and lifestyle changes alone in relieving symptoms for people who have frequent angina, or chest pain, the researchers found.

The findings, released Saturday at the American Heart Association’s annual scientific conference, should prompt more discussion between patients and their doctors about treatment, she said. “Statins and aspirin are critically important,” she said. “We need to understand better how to get people to modify their risk factors.” Lifestyle changes can be hard to make and sustain, she said.

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