Health Alert: Angioplasty alternative

NATIONAL - Facing chronic heart problems takes courage, and sometimes an angioplasty. A new study finds a combination of pills may be as effective as that balloon procedure.

Ed Nowak has braved a lot. "Carotid artery, I was operated on both sides. I had cataracts in both eyes, so I'm like a new man, really!"

The 76-year-old also manages diabetes and high blood pressure. On top of all that, Ed's doctor told him he had a heart problem. "There is an artery, back of your heart, that's too dangerous to operate on. So he says, 'We're just going to go ahead and do it with medication.'"

Ed enrolled in the "Courage" study, which gave patients the chance to manage coronary artery disease without angioplasty. Dr. William E. Boden says, "What if we give that patient a trial of optimal medical therapy as opposed to simply saying, 'You need angioplasty,' right from the get go."

In Doctor Boden's study, about half of the patients took drugs to address their specific problems. Dr. Boden says, "Aspirin, beta blockers, statins, ACE inhibitors, you know, these are standard treatments that we employ all the time in the routine care of our patients."

The drug therapy treated the entire vascular system, and targeted fatty lipids that cause blockages. Dr. Boden says, "Aggressive medical therapy actually shrinks the lipid core inside the artery and makes the vulnerable plaques less vulnerable to rupture."

Overall, the study found two-thirds of patients on drug therapy never needed angioplasty.

Dr. Boden says, "A course of medical therapy is safe and it's equally effective as, as angioplasty and stenting."

The results encourage Ed to keep up with his medicine.

Posted by Chantelle Janelle