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News1991November › Vein op full of hot air › November 1991

Vein op full of hot air

The use of angioplasty for people with blocked arteries in the lower extremities the revolutionary procedure that was supposed to help prevent bypass operations or amputation isn't working

The use of angioplasty for people with blocked arteries in the lower extremities the revolutionary procedure that was supposed to help prevent bypass operations or amputation isn't working.

Angioplasty is the 20 year old technique in which a balloon is inflated inside a blood vessel to flatten any atherosclerotic plaque (hardened arteries) that has caused its pathway to narrow. An analysis of all the "percutanous transluminal angioplasty" done in Maryland between 1979 to 1989 showed that the number of procedures rose from 1 to 24 per 100,000 state residents. But so did the annual rate of peripheral bypass surgery, from 32 to 65 per 100,000. And despite all these added operations, the number of lower extremity amputations due to vascular problems remained steady at 30 per 100,000.

The only effect of angioplasty has been to double hospital charges, from about $15 million to $30 million in those 10 years.


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