(DALLAS) -- With medical costs soaring, researchers have found a way to control expenses for heart stents without cost to patients.
More than half a million heart stents are implanted every year in the U.S. The procedure, a less invasive alternative to bypass surgery, consists of surgically inserting a tube into a narrowed artery to keep it open and keep blood flowing normally. Some are coated with medicine to help prevent blood clots.
These drug-eluting stents are the subject of a new study in the journal Circulation, published by the American Heart Association. It followed more than 10,000 patients at 55 medical centers.
The authors found that limiting the use of drug-eluting stents to a selected group of patients is saving the U.S. heath care system more than $400 million a year.
And while the use of the stents decreased from 92 percent between 2004 and 2006 to 68 percent in 2007, rates of patient death and heart attack remained virtually unchanged.
By targeting the highest-risk patients, doctors were able to do many fewer stent procedures while preserving the clinical benefits.
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