Lowering cholesterol levels before a patient has a balloon angioplasty operation does not stop or delay the veins closing up again.
The problem, called restenosis, is a common one after angioplasty and usually occurs about six months after the operation. Eventually, the operation has to be repeated to "unblock" the arteries again.
Some doctors have observed that restenosis may be slowed or stopped altogether if the patient is first given a cholesterol lowering drug such as lovastatin.
Researchers from the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta gave one group of patients the drug 10 days before angioplasty, and another group a placebo. Although the lovastatin group showed a 42 per cent decrease in their cholesterol levels, both groups had similar degrees of restenosis six months later.