Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Stents make later surgery riskier than usual

Undergoing angioplasty and getting a wire-mesh stent to open a narrowed or blocked artery in the heart is easier on the body than bypass surgery. But it still isn't a walk in the park. If life were fair, anyone having this procedure would be spared from the need to have surgery for something else for at least a year. Life, though, isn't fair, and as many as one person in 20 needs noncardiac surgery soon after getting a stent to replace a hip, fix a digestive problem, or correct some other condition. To make matters worse, getting a stent increases the chances of having a heart attack or dying after noncardiac surgery.

Scottish researchers examined the medical records of 18,000 men and women who received a stent. Of those who had noncardiac surgery within six weeks of getting a stent, 42% developed a severe cardiac complication or died, compared with 14% of those who had surgery six to 52 weeks afterward. The type of stent didn't seem to affect the results (Circulation: Cardiovascular Interventions, May 4, 2010).

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »