For anyone interested in how to control health care costs – and the premiums we pay each month for coverage – the Washington Post has a great article today about the risks and costs of overtreatment in our health system – specifically the expensive use of unnecessary stents as a treatment for stable angina or chest pain.
Despite a large and conclusive study five years ago that confirmed the results of many smaller studies, cardiac surgeons continue to surgically insert mesh tube or “stents” into partially blocked vessels around the heart. Why is this a problem? For the 30% of stent recipients who are having these devices put in simply because of ongoing chest pain, this painful and sometimes risky surgical procedure is clearly and conclusively no better at controlling symptoms or reducing death rates than medication and changes in lifestyle.
There is really no debate about this point. Yet, five years later surgeons are still routinely doing hundreds of thousands of these procedures at $17,000 a patient. Clearly saving money in our health system is about much more than giving doctors clear information about costs and benefits of treatments.