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Heart attack victims more likely to survive if cardiologist is away

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Leading cardiologists tend to be more interventionist and use techniques such as stenting to unblock a heart artery – but the patient is also more likely to die as a result.

Instead, those who are given minimum treatment after cardiac arrest and heart failure have a far higher chance of still being alive a month after the initial attack, researchers from Harvard Medical School have discovered.

There seems to be a direct correlation between medical conferences, when cardiologists are away from hospital attending the events, and patient survival rates. “Many medical interventions deliver no mortality benefit, and the fact that mortality actually falls for heart attack patients during these conference dates raises important questions about how care might differ during these periods,” said lead researcher Anupam Jena.

The researchers looked at survival rates of heart attack patients who had been admitted to hospital on or around the time that the world’s biggest cardiology conference, the Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics meeting, was taking place.

Overall, 15.3 per cent of patients who were admitted when the conference was happening died within 30 days compared with 16.7 per cent of patients who were admitted on non-conference days and were treated by the cardiologist.

One problem could be that cardiologists seem to be fixated on stenting – a procedure where a wire mesh is threaded through a blocked artery to open it up – when there could be safer and more effective options available, said Dr Jena.

The doctors who attended the conference had performed more stent procedures and were more focused on having research papers published and running clinical trials than the peers they left behind.

(Source: Journal of the American Heart Association, 2018; 7: e008230)

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