Coronary stents still an overused medical procedure

Heart stent

Some medical procedures and treatments, such as coronary stents, continue to be overused by healthcare professionals. A new report on stents provides data on the scope of the problem and includes rankings of hospitals.

Overused medical procedures

In 2010, the Parsemus Foundation began spreading the word about overused medical treatments. Coronary stents were highlighted as an example; multiple clinical trials reported they provided no benefit regarding mortality and heart-related events, yet doctors often recommended them. We provided early support for the “Less is More” series that started in 2010 in the Archives of Internal Medicine (now called the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine) to increase the discussion about overused medical treatments. The series continues to this day. Our foundation also provided educational material on our website about overused medical treatments.

Unfortunately, healthcare professionals continue to use unnecessary medical procedures — even some that actually cause harm. Why? Some physicians may not be aware of newer data on the lack of effectiveness of certain procedures. In the U.S., the profit structure of the healthcare system is a major factor. And we have a cultural tradition of physicians wanting to do something for sick patients, and of patients expecting something to be done for them.

Coronary stent overuse in 2023

A recent report, “Avoiding Overuse: Coronary Stents / How professional inertia harms patients and wastes billions of dollars,” was released by the Lowns Institute. This nonpartisan think tank conducts research and created the first social responsibility ranking for hospitals, the Lowns Institute Hospital Index. One of their key areas is to evaluate how well individual hospitals avoid overuse of common low-value tests and procedures. The October 2023 report on stents found that U.S. hospitals performed over 229,000 unnecessary coronary stent procedures from 2019-2021. That accounts for 22% of the 1 million stents placed during this timeframe.

It’s important to educate yourself about your health so you can make the best decisions.

Linda Brent, PhD

Executive Director, Parsemus Foundation

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