Stents are sometimes preferred over coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery because stents do not require open-chest surgery. In addition, the symptoms of stable coronary artery disease (such as a type of heart pain called angina) tend to go away right after surgery. Typically the patient is back on his/her feet within a day or two. Surgeons and hospitals like stents, too, because at $30,000 - $50,000 per patient, they are big money makers.
Unfortunately, a recent review of over 7,000 patients enrolled in eight different clinical trials showed that stents have little or no advantage over standard medical care with drugs. About half of the patients in the studies were given stents plus standard medical care (treatment with beta-blockers, statins, aspirin, or ACE inhibitors). The other half of the patients received just the standard medical care. Four years later, there were no differences in patient outcomes between the two groups in terms of reduced angina, fewer heart attacks, or death.
Will this new information affect the number of stents implanted every year? Time will tell. But in the interest of informed consent, I hope that the information will be at least given to patients before they choose to have a stent implanted.