Don’t Be Scared Into Angioplasty
Julian Whitaker, MD
In late March, Dorothy, a vibrant, successful woman in her early 70s, developed severe chest pain and shortness of breath. She was taken to a prominent hospital in Los Angeles where she was diagnosed with a mild heart attack, stabilized with drugs, and admitted to the ICU.
Shortly thereafter, a group of physicians came into Dorothy’s room and told her that she must undergo angioplasty immediately. Now, Dorothy has been a patient of ours for some time, and she also reads my newsletter Health & Healing, so she wasn’t unprepared for this. She agreed to continue on the drugs but politely declined the procedure. So another doctor came in and told Dorothy that if she didn’t have the angioplasty, she would go into full cardiac arrest.
That’s when Dorothy’s son stepped in.
An Unforgivable Onslaught
“My mother had just had a heart attack and was in tremendous pain, and now she was being accosted by this doctor who was trying his best to scare the hell out of us. She calmly asked him to leave. Not only did he refuse, but he escalated his assault in an even more disrespectful manner. At her request, I finally told him that if he didn’t get out, I would throw him out.”
“But the nightmare continued. Next, three psychiatrists came in and started in on her—as if she were crazy because she would not go along with whatever they said. They continued to badger her and left only when I threatened to physically throw them out. A few more bombardments followed before they finally sent in a decent doctor who, although he disagreed with us, followed my mother’s wishes.”
A few days later, Dorothy left the hospital and came to Whitaker Wellness, where we evaluated her, found that her heart was functioning normally, and treated her. Within two weeks, she was symptom-free—no chest pain, shortness of breath, or difficulty exercising—and as she completed her treatment course, she was able to taper off most of the medications they’d put her on in the hospital. I recently called Dorothy to check up on her, and she was feeling great.
Scared Into Submission
The scenario Dorothy endured is routine—with one significant difference. Most patients succumb to these pressure tactics. It’s understandable. There you are, lying in a hospital bed, scared silly by white-coated authority figures telling you you’re going to die if you don’t submit to a catheter, balloon, stent, or open-heart surgery. No wonder most people say yes.
But as Dorothy’s story illustrates, it’s all a charade. Angioplasty is not the lifesaving procedure cardiologists make it out to be. Why they’re allowed to use such heavy-handed pitches is beyond me. This kind of misrepresentation wouldn’t be tolerated in any other profession. Just imagine being confined in a room at the car dealer’s lot while one salesman after another comes in and tells you if you don’t buy a particular car, you’ll die in an automobile accident.
Of course, the cardiologists will have you sign a 30-page, small-print, “informed consent” form telling you how their interventions can hurt, maim, or kill you—so in the event that you are harmed, they can simply say, “We told you so.”
The Scoop on Angioplasty
The truth is that angioplasty, bypass surgery, and other procedures that open or bypass blocked arteries are not, and cannot, be effective therapies for coronary artery disease (CAD). Atherosclerosis—the lesions and blockages in the arteries that are the underlying cause of CAD—is a diffuse and systemic disease. That’s why this condition responds much better to therapies such as lifestyle changes and targeted supplements that enhance the health of the entire cardiovascular system.
Furthermore, the lesions detected by angiography and attacked by cardiologists and surgeons are usually large, stable, and unlikely to cause heart attacks or deaths. So what if doctors prop open or bypass a couple of these blockages? They’ve done nothing to improve the patient’s overall condition. But a lot of patients are left damaged, sometimes fatally.
Most of the 1.2 million Americans who undergo angioplasty will not, even by the wildest stretch of self-serving imagination, be helped by the procedure. That’s because 85 percent of them have stable CAD, and 25 percent have no symptoms at all! These are low-risk patients whose chances of dying of heart disease are only about 1 percent per year. Even in a best-case scenario, you’d have to operate on 200 people to save one person from a fatal heart attack—subjecting the other 199 to risks far greater than the disease. A middle school math student could easily discover this gigantic fraud.
The Research Makes It Clear
I want to make it clear that this is not my opinion. This is the consensus of the research published in leading medical journals over the past 23 years. Let’s take a look at some of the more recent studies.
The landmark Clinical Outcomes Utilizing Revascularization and Aggressive Drug Evaluation (COURAGE) trial, published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2007, involved 2,287 patients, 50 hospitals, and scores of collaborating researchers. It was designed to test the hypothesis that in patients with stable CAD, a combination of appropriate drugs, lifestyle changes, and angioplasty was superior to treatment with medications and lifestyle changes alone. Angioplasty was a bust. There were no noteworthy differences between the two interventions. All patients experienced significant reductions in angina, and the number of deaths and heart attacks were similar in both groups. Therefore, why would anyone bother with angioplasty?
In 2009, another large study replicated these findings. This one involved patients who had both diabetes and CAD. Again, the expected outcome was that prompt bypass surgery or angioplasty would be superior to medical therapy alone. Instead, patients who underwent invasive interventions had no fewer deaths than those treated solely with drugs. I’ll say it again. Why have bypass or angioplasty?
“No Evidence of an Effect on Death or MI”
Perhaps the most important study was a meta-analysis published earlier this year in the The Lancet. Researchers from Tufts Medical Center evaluated the results of 61 clinical trials, involving more than 25,000 patients, that studied angioplasty for the treatment of stable, non-acute CAD. They found “no evidence of an effect on death or myocardial infarction [heart attack] when compared with medical therapy.”
If Dorothy, who had suffered a heart attack, didn’t need angioplasty, then the million patients with mild, stable disease who have the procedure every year certainly don’t need it. Yet doctors have these people thoroughly convinced that their angioplasties are the only reason they’re walking around today. That is an obvious, bald-faced lie.
How to Avoid Angioplasty
Avoiding angioplasty is easy. Simply follow Dorothy’s lead and just say no.
Beyond that, beware of diagnostic cardiac catheterizations (angiograms). Cardiologists order them with about as much deliberation as they order lunch. And realize that they’re a gateway to other procedures—80 percent of patients who have a catheterization undergo either angioplasty or bypass surgery.
Remember, all the patients in the COURAGE trial had blockages of at least 70 percent in one or more coronary arteries, and 95 percent of them had angina. This class of patient would be immediately referred for angioplasty by most any cardiologist in the country. Yet COURAGE results showed that these people do not benefit from this invasive procedure. This means that the overwhelming majority of patients recommended for angioplasty can be safely treated with diet, exercise, and appropriate medications.
If your physician persists, get a second opinion—but be prepared to hear the same old song and dance. Bottom line, if we tied the thumbs of all catheter-pushing cardiologists and heart surgeons, death and debilitation rates would plummet. I’ve watched this happen for the past 30 years, and I can’t imagine a more injurious and expensive fraud.
- It’s important that you step up and take responsibility for your health. The best treatment approaches for cardiovascular disease are lifestyle changes, exercise, targeted nutritional supplements, and appropriate drugs.
- For more serious disease, consider a course of EECP, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and/or targeted intravenous treatments. To schedule an appointment for evaluation and treatment, call the clinic at (866) 944-8253.
- Look for the supplements mentioned above in health food stores, online, or order by calling (800) 810-6655.
- BARI 2D Study Group. A randomized trial of therapies for type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease. N Engl J Med. 2009 Jun 11;360(24):2503–2515.
- Boden WE, et al. Optimal medical therapy with or without PCI for stable coronary disease. N Engl J Med. 2007 Apr 12;356(15):1503–1516.
- Trikalinos TA, et al. Percutaneous coronary interventions for non-acute coronary artery disease: a quantitative 20-years synopsis and a network meta-analysis. Lancet. 2009 March 14;373(9667): 911–918.
Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healing, click here.