A massive, $100 million study recently looked at outcomes for men and women with blocked arteries who received two common, but highly invasive, surgical procedures. It turns out, they fare no better—and often worse—than men and women who get no surgical intervention.
I’ll tell you all about that important study in a moment. But first, let’s talk about the treatment of heart disease back when I was a medical student…
Misguided assumptions continue to drive treatment of heart disease
Even back in the mid-1970s, as a medical student at the University of Pennsylvania, I thought these types of invasive heart procedures were dangerous—and a huge mistake.
Of course, at that time, the mainstream assumed that heart disease was a one-way street. In other words, once you were diagnosed with it, you could never reverse the course of the disease or get any better. Rather, you could only hope to “manage” your condition.
Then, in the 1980s, researchers in other areas of health began to show that you can, in fact, reverse heart disease with diet, lifestyle, stress reduction, and—importantly—community, emotional, and social support. Nevertheless, for decades, cardiologists continued to recommend two highly invasive surgical procedures for the millions of Americans with narrowed coronary arteries. And ignored these safe, effective options.
The first procedure, called a coronary bypass, consists of open-heart surgery that redirects blood around the blocked section of an artery. This procedure involves stopping the heart, pumping the blood back into the body through an artificial heart-lung machine, performing the bypass, and then starting the heart again.
But there was never any real evidence that this hugely complicated, dangerous, expensive, and invasive surgical procedure showed any benefit over doing nothing at all!
In fact, in one 2018 study published in Lancet, patients who underwent a completely bogus placebo procedure experienced the same modest improvements as the group that underwent the real bypass! Which suggests that any improvements the patients may have experienced after undergoing a coronary bypass were completely due to placebo effect or healthy lifestyle changes that should have been adopted post-surgery.
The other commonly performed procedure is called an arterial stent. For this procedure, the cardiologist pushes a tiny tube into the artery, then inflates a little balloon or inserts a mesh scaffold to force the artery open.
But—here again—no evidence has ever existed to show that these stent procedures actually benefit the patient in terms of improving symptoms…much less improving mortality rate, which should be the ultimate goal of any treatment.
Worse yet, studies in recent years have begun to uncover many serious problems with these stent procedures. (Of course, I started reporting about their dangers almost 10 years ago! These surgical scaffold procedures are like leading patients to the scaffold.)
Over time, some scientists also began to chime in about the lack of any evidence that these two invasive heart procedures actually work. And I keenly remember reading a warning by Bernard Lown, a Nobel prize winning cardiologist, about the dangers of overtreatment of heart disease in the Boston Globe in 2012.
It turns out, after performing millions of these procedures, cardiologists are really the only people to clearly benefit from them. And those benefits are purely financial. In fact, I remember for years, the leading cardiologist at the University of Pennsylvania had his own personal helicopter for getting around.
Now, let’s take a look at the study I mentioned at the beginning of this Dispatch…
Sacred cows of cardiology are finally crashing down
For the huge, new, $100 million, government-funded study, researchers followed more than 5,000 men and women from 37 countries with severe but stable heart disease. All participants underwent a stress test that showed they suffered from reduced blood flow to the heart muscle, which is the technical definition of coronary heart disease. And they all received lifestyle guidelines and non-surgical management to improve heart health.
Then, half the participants were given nothing but a CT scan to make sure their heart disease was stable.
The other half underwent angiograms. This procedure requires sticking a tube into major arteries and injecting chemical dyes to help take pictures of the heart. Any blockages that were detected were treated immediately. Stents were placed in three-quarters of cases. And coronary bypass surgeries were performed in the other quarter.
Doctors then followed all the participants to see who subsequently suffered heart attacks, cardiac arrest, heart failure, hospitalization, or deaths from heart disease.
After one year, 7 percent of the patients who’d been given an invasive cardiac procedure had suffered one of these adverse outcomes, compared to only 5 percent of the patients who did not receive surgical intervention. Which means the heart procedures actually had a significant 40 percent greater relative risk!
After a little over three years, 13 percent of the patients who’d been given an invasive cardiac procedure suffered cardiovascular death, heart attack, or hospitalization for unstable angina or heart failure. And almost 16 percent of patients who didn’t receive invasive care suffered one of these outcomes. So, if you survive the first year following one of these invasive procedures, your relative risk goes down. But only slightly.
Plus, the overall mortality risk (which means dying from any cause) at 3.3 years was virtually identical between both groups—6.4 percent in the invasive group and 6.5 in the non-invasive group.
Overall, the researchers concluded that this is the strongest evidence yet that tens of thousands of costly, risky stent procedures and bypass surgeries are unnecessary for people with stable heart disease. And I agree.
I should also mention that these findings are still the talk of the town here in Sarasota, Florida, a mid-size community that boasts a number of active, engaged retirees. I know many good people here in Sarasota who have undergone these procedures and now are genuinely shocked. They feel betrayed by their cardiologists—and by the system.
It’s really too late to alter their course…or the course of the millions of other Americans who were subjected to the costs and dangers of these useless procedures for decades.
But it’s not too late for you—or someone you love.
And the first step is finding a good internal medicine doctor who listens, takes time with you, and stays up to date with the science. They’re far less likely to push costly, invasive procedures than your typical cardiologist—who knows nothing better!
In addition, you can learn about the many safe, effective, natural approaches to protect your heart…without the use of ineffective and dangerous procedures or drugs, in my Heart Attack Prevention and Repair Protocol. To learn more about this comprehensive online learning tool, or to enroll today, click here now!
“International Study of Comparative Health Effectiveness With Medical and Invasive Approaches – ISCHEMIA.” American College of Cardiology, 11/16/19. (acc.org/latest-in-cardiology/clinical-trials/2019/11/15/17/27/ischemia)
“It’s unlikely you need a stent, but your doctor may not tell you that.” LA Times, 1/24/20. (latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-01-24/op-ed-blocked-artery-its-unlikely-you-need-a-stent-but-your-doctor-may-not-tell-you-that)
“Percutaneous coronary intervention in stable angina (ORBITA): a double-blind, randomized controlled trial,” Lancet, January, 2018. 391(10115): 31-40. doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(17)32714-9