Angioplasty in kidney blood vessels has risks

If you’re among the hundreds of thousands of North Americans with clogged kidney arteries, you might want to consider trying medicines before rushing into angioplasty to open them up.

If you’re among the hundreds of thousands of North Americans with clogged kidney arteries, you might want to consider trying medicines before rushing into angioplasty to open them up.

The pricey procedure is no more effective and carries surprisingly big risks, a study found.

The National Kidney Foundation estimates more than 250,000 Americans have narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the kidneys.

It’s usually caused by a buildup of fatty plaque, mostly in folks 50 or older, and can result in high blood pressure and, sometimes, kidney failure. Each year, about one in six patients with the condition dies.

About 16 per cent of patients with newly diagnosed blockages in kidney blood vessels undergo angioplasty or, occasionally, more-invasive artery bypass surgery.

But rushing to get blood vessels cleaned out could be a dangerous mistake, according to a British study and some experts.

Doctors at several British hospitals and universities compared patients with severe kidney artery blockages who were treated just with medicines with a group that got the same drugs and underwent angioplasty, in which a catheter is threaded through an artery to clear out blockages.

The angioplasty group fared no better — and some of those patients suffered serious complications, including deaths and amputations.

“There really was no benefit,” said Dr. Harlan Krumholz, a cardiologist and health outcomes researcher at Yale University.

“What’s remarkable is that this procedure got so popular and adopted into widespread use before a study like this was conducted to show us what its value might be.”

He said doctors believe some treatments have obvious benefits, but recently a series of studies like this one have upended conventional wisdom. That means precious health care dollars are being wasted.

On the Net:

New England Journal: http://www.nejm.org

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