Trial Will Look At Widening Angioplasty's Reach

Research to examine whether community hospitals can use it for non-urgent care

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THURSDAY, Sept. 29, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers are launching a nationwide study of more than 16,000 patients to determine if heart angioplasty can be safely performed in smaller, community hospitals.

If the study finds that this potentially lifesaving treatment can be performed in community hospitals, it would help improve patient access to the therapy, say cardiologists at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, who are leading the study.

The first patients are expected to be enrolled in the study this fall and the study, which will include about 40 community hospitals across he country, should wrap up in 2008.

During angioplasty, a small balloon is inserted into a narrowed artery and inflated in order to widen the artery and improve blood flow. In many states, regulations limit the use of angioplasty in community hospitals to emergency situations, such as a heart attack. In non-emergency cases, patients must be transferred to a hospital that has a specialized heart surgery backup.

However, "there is a large and growing number of people who could benefit from angioplasty, and the procedure is being applied to more types of heart conditions," study senior investigator Dr Thomas Aversano, an interventional cardiologist and associate professor at the university's School of Medicine and its Heart Institute, said in a prepared statement.

"Many patients with coronary artery disease admitted to hospitals that do not have angioplasty available would benefit from transfer to a hospital where they can have angioplasty performed," Aversano said. "The ability to perform angioplasty at hospitals without on-site cardiac surgery will significantly improve access and outcomes for more than one-half of patients who would benefit from such a transfer but in fact are not transferred and consequently have a higher mortality."

An estimated 650,000 angioplasty procedures were performed on 640,000 Americans in 2002, according to the American Heart Association.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about angioplasty.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medicine, news release, Sept. 8, 2005

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