WEDNESDAY, Feb. 6, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- People who have chest pain in the 24 hours before a heart attack have smaller heart attacks and better outcomes than those without pre-heart attack chest pain, even when they undergo angioplasty and stenting, a new study shows.
Doctors have long noticed that patients with chest pain before heart attack (formally known as "pre-infarction angina") seem to have better outcomes, but it wasn't clear if the protective benefit would still be there in patients who receive angioplasty and stenting, study senior author Dr. Jay Traverse, a research cardiologist at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, said in a foundation new release.
Angioplasty is used to clear blocked heart arteries and stents are inserted to help keep them open.
The researchers looked at data from 245 patients who suffered a first heart attack and underwent angioplasty and stenting. Of those patients, 79 had experienced chest pain in the 24 hours before their heart attack.
Patients with pre-heart attack chest pain had a 50 percent smaller heart attack than those without chest pain, and had better heart function when they were discharged from the hospital.
Pre-heart attack chest pain appears to activate protective mechanisms in the heart before a heart attack, Traverse said. Identifying what these mechanisms are could lead to the development of new drugs to activate them, he suggested.
The study was published recently in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Interventions.
The American College of Radiology/ Radiological Society of North America has more about angioplasty and stenting.