Nick was experiencing chest pains last week and went in to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethseda, Maryland for a check-up. Recall that Nick had a problem with his heart in mid-December, and an angioplasty was performed resulting in insertion of a stent to open up one clogged artery on the surface of his heart.
Last week, doctors at the NNMC noted “irregularities” and recommended that Nick see his doctors as soon as possible. As Nick was coming back to Texas at the end of the week anyway, he went back in to have them take a look. As a result of their examination, his doctors decided that Nick needed bypasses for 4 arteries on the surface of his heart.
He checked in to St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Houston, and the 3-hour procedure was done on Sunday, the 25th of March.
He’s still in the hospital in recovery, but they say he is in high spirits and is bantering with the nurses over politics. He’ll be in Houston as he recovers, and will miss some votes in Washington D.C., mainly budget votes.
While Nick’s angioplasty procedure was probably called for given the discomfort he was feeling late last year, a report came out just today on the overuse of angioplasty as a first line procedure of treatment in non-emergency cases.
The study, by American and Canadian medical researchers, will appear next month in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The report criticizes the standard practice of installation of a stent for treating patients for non-emergency cases.
"We’re not saying that angioplasty is not necessary (for many heart patients),” says Dr. Koon Teo, a McMaster cardiologist who led the Canadian arm of the study. “We do say that for people with angina and partial blockages, angioplasty might not be necessary in the initial stages. Instead of having it as the first line, we should make sure they get medical therapy.”Their study of over 2,000 heart patients found that “aggressive, less expensive and non-invasive medical treatments were just as effective at preventing heart attacks and deaths than the first-line angioplasties.”
The alternative treatment consists of the use of cholesterol reducing statins, aspirin, beta-blockers, blood sugar and blood pressure controls for diabetics, and lifestyle changes.
Half the patients in this study, having “stable coronary artery disease”, were treated with angioplasty as well as .the above alternative treatment; the other half was treated with the alternative treatment alone. Researchers found that the number of heart attacks and deaths that occurred after a median 4.6 years were almost identical in both groups.
So in Nick’s case, a stent was called for, but it wasn’t enough. Now let’s hope this is the fix he needs to get his health back.
The family requests that instead of sending flowers to Nick at the hospital, to please consider making a donation to the American Heart Association.