Your Questions About Stents -- Answered

Earlier this week, a landmark study found that stents -- hollow tubes surgically implanted into blocked arteries to prop them open -- may be no more effective at preventing heart attacks and other cardiac events than drug therapy alone. The findings have profound implications for the 800,000 Americans who receive stents each year.

On "World News," we asked for your questions about stents. Below, ABC News medical editor Dr. Tim Johnson responds to some of the questions you sent.

Question:

I had a heart attack 14 months ago, but my stent wasn't put in until the next day at different hospital, as the first hospital wasn't able to do it. I have asked many people if my stent can be removed without any danger. What if I need a bypass in the future? Will that stent be in the way, possibly? Should I remove it if possible? Help me sleep tonight please…

Answer:

Yes, your stent can be removed, but there is really no reason to do so. Already having a stent in place is not dangerous, and if you do indeed need bypass surgery in the future, it can certainly be dealt with safely at that time. You can sleep easy.

Question:

I am 53 years old and had my first and only heart attack three years ago. I was diagnosed with coronary artery disease. I had two stents installed. I am on 20mg Lipitor and have changed my diet to organic and as fat-free as possible. I also take multiple supplements, including fish oil, niacin, aspirin, folic acid and COQ10. Is this disease reversible? My doctor has prescribed the Lipitor, low fat diet and exercise. Are there other treatments to help prevent future attacks and prolong the inevitable?

Answer:

Like yourself, patients in this particular study were taking cholesterol-lowering drugs like Lipitor and aspirin, to prevent blood clots and blockages. They also took drugs to lower their blood pressure; your doctor would know if that might be appropriate for you as well. And keep up with the diet and exercise -- both safe and excellent ways to keep your heart disease in check!

Question:

I just had an appointment with a cardiologist, and he has suggested an angiogram with possible stent. I have had the nuclear treadmill test, and he feels that after looking at the pictures there is part of my heart which is not getting good blood flow. He said the only way to tell if it is from the main artery or a smaller vein is the test. I am 72 years old and have a history of high cholesterol. I feel that I am basically in good health and young for my years. However, my two brothers have had heart attacks, and I obviously have that gene. My symptoms are exercise-induced discomfort, which goes away after a while. After looking at the news, I am wondering if it is logical to do something so invasive.

Answer:

It sounds like your case might be just the type that this particular study has implications for. Depending on the details of your health and history, it may be that stenting is not necessary. Be sure, though, to discuss this new finding with your doctor before making any decisions.

Question:

My father is 72 years old, and about two months ago he had a surgery and was given three stents. He is also diabetic and also had high blood pressure. My question to you: Should my father not have had this surgery? His doctors were telling him that he just had heartburn and were giving him heartburn medications. He decided to see another doctor who then performed an EKG and found the blockage. This "heartburn" had been going on for about six months. If my father had not been diagnosed with this condition when he did, what could have happened to him if this would have gone on? I believe that this surgery saved his life. How do you feel about this?

Answer:

Well, it sounds like he is doing well, and that is the most important thing. Though it is impossible to tell what would have happened had your father not gone in for surgery, his continued health is a good sign. Taking steps to control his existing risk factors for heart disease, as well as continued dialogue with his doctor, will most likely ensure that he remains well.

Question:

My father has 95 percent blockage in both carotid arteries. One doctor wanted to take him into surgery, and one didn't. He had throat cancer and has scar tissue near the blockage, and one doctor actually said that they weren't even sure the arteries there were actually blocked -- it may be the scar tissue that is pushing on it. Does this new study have any implications for him?

Answer:

No, this study does not have any implications for patients such as your father. Your father has problems with his carotid arteries -- the main arteries of the neck -- while this study addresses the coronary arteries of the heart.