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  • Safi Bello

How Fake Surgery Exposes Useless Treatments

Scientific American ----------- Two weeks after my husband had a couple of stents installed in his coronary arteries, he awoke to this headline in the New York Times:“‘Unbelievable’: Heart Stents Fail to Ease Chest Pain.” He was incredulous. For weeks before his surgery, he had felt stabbing pains in his chest any time he exerted himself. Now he felt fantastic and was back to playing his beloved Ultimate Frisbee. The headline reflected the results of a British study, published online last November in the Lancet, that used what is probably the best methodology for assessing a surgical procedure: sham surgery. In this case, 200 patients with a blocked artery were randomly assigned to get either a real stent operation or a fake one. In the real version, a surgeon snaked a balloon-tipped catheter through an artery in the groin or arm up to the blockage, widened the vessel by inflating the balloon, and then kept it open with a tubelike stent made of wire mesh. In the sham procedure, a catheter was directed to the blockage, but the surgeon only pretended to do the rest. The astonishing finding: there was no difference in how the patients felt six weeks after surgery. Both groups reported less pain, and both performed better on treadmill tests. To learn more click on the picture below to read the article.

How Fake Surgery Exposes Useless Treatments - Read More from Scientific American

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