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New study may change angioplasty recommendations for patients

Heart patients in Albany who have had an angioplasty may have been told by their doctors that they needed to travel to a bigger city or a bigger hospital for a safe procedure, but a new study may change what doctors say to patients considering an angioplasty. While surgical errors can happen at the largest and the smallest hospitals, New York cardiologists more often recommended large hospitals for this relatively common procedure.

A new study, however, has recently been presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association that says patients undergoing an angioplasty procedure are just as safe at small hospitals as they are at large hospitals. The study followed patients at small and large hospitals, comparing death rates and the need for emergency heart surgery six weeks after surgery. The results between the two sets of patients were relatively similar.

Angioplasties are common in the United States, and over 1 million people undergoing the procedure each year. During the procedure, a surgeon will insert a small balloon into an artery, inflating it and opening up the previously clogged artery. Surgeons can also insert small, mesh stents into the artery in order to keep the area somewhat clog-free.

It is extremely important for any patient undergoing such an invasive surgery to work with a surgeon and a hospital that have a reputation for angioplasties. Picking a hospital that does not have sufficient heart surgery equipment on hand for an emergency could be fatal if there was an emergency. Choosing a surgeon who has never performed or only performed a few angioplasties could lead to debilitating injuries or a permanent health condition if the surgeon made a mistake. While there is no reason why a patient cannot go to a small hospital for this surgery, it is important to find a hospital and doctor who will not expose the patient to surgical errors.

Source: USA Today, "Angioplasty patients fare well at smaller hospitals," Liz Szabo, Nov. 14, 2011

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