Unnecessary Heart Surgery Can Be Dangerous

Bhatt said there's less than a 1 percent chance a patient would experience complications from plaque breaking off and traveling downstream in the same artery to cause a heart attack.

Once patients makes it through stent surgery, they also face long-term risks as the body reacts to the foreign object.

Stents can develop blood clot

Stents accumulate scar tissue over a period of months

The blood clot risk is rare at this stage, however, occurring less than 1 percent of the time, Bhatt said.

"When it does happen, it can result in a heart attack," he said. "One minute the stent is open, and in less than a minute, it's closed."

Less than 10 percent of patients now develop scar tissue in stents -- before 2003, when stent technology was less developed, the risk was greater.

What's the Takeaway?

Although invasive heart procedures can be lifesaving and worth the risk for patients who have heart disease, patients who don't need cardiac catheterization or stents are exposed to unnecessary risks before and after surgery.

"You're worse off than you would have otherwise been," Bhatt said, adding that he didn't believe there was an "epidemic" of unnecessary heart procedures.

Watch this video for tips on how to avoid unnecessary heart procedures.

Adelman said it's one thing to order unnecessary blood work or brain imaging tests, but dangerous to order unnecessary invasive procedures.

"Ordering an unnecessary MRI is very expensive and wasteful, but it doesn't hurt anybody," he said. But unneeded cardiac procedures can cause strokes, heart attacks and death. "We're willing to accept those risks when it's necessary. ... When it's medically unnecessary, it's not only expensive, but it's terrible malpractice."

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