Coronary angiograms are injections of dye into the arteries of the heart to visualize blockages. Access to these arteries is obtained through the femoral artery, located in the groin. Well over a million of these procedures are performed every year in the United States.

The purpose of the angiogram is to locate blockages in the coronary arteries that may be relieved by balloon angioplasty or stent placement, or establish a need for bypass surgery.

Amazingly, a study in JAMA (October 15, 2008, pp 1765-73) reveals that the majority of patients with stable angina do NOT have stress testing performed prior to angiography. In other words, they have no increase in chest pain, yet are subjected to an expensive, invasive procedure without proper testing to indicate that they really need it.

This report suggests that angiograms are largely being performed for financial gain rather than for patient benefit. It has already been demonstrated that stent placement provides no benefit to survival beyond that of optimal medical therapy. Stents should be inserted for the relief of cardiac pain that has progressed to the point that the patient cannot manage the activities of daily living, or cannot exercise enough to maintain conditioning. Clearly, that is not what is happening.

Coronary angiograms are not always safe procedures. They may result in heart attacks or strokes, dangerous bleeding at needle insertion sites, occlusion of leg arteries, or infection. They require the addition of potent blood thinners to keep the stents open, exposing patients to the risk of bleeding. In addition, stents often provide only temporary benefit. Angina may recur weeks or months after the stent is inserted.

Before you, a family member or a friend submits to cardiac catheterization, inquire why it is necessary, and verify that a stress test has been performed that indicates a need for it.

Our practice works with a non-invasive, extremely safe treatment that relieves chest pain in the majority of patients with angina. It is called external counterpulsation therapy, and uses leg compression to dilate coronary arteries and create collateral circulation. Contact us for more information.

Allan Sosin, MD

(*The information contained in this article is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any illness or condition. These recommendations have not been reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). No content contained in this article is a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never increase, reduce or discontinue any medication or treatment without first consulting your doctor. If you are seeking the advice of a medical professional and wish to make an appointment with one of our doctors, please call our office at (949) 600-5100. Unsolicited e-mail may not be answered and is not a substitute for obtaining medical advice in person from a qualified health professional. If you have a medical emergency, contact your personal physician or local medical emergency service immediately.)

Author's Bio: 

Allan Sosin is the founder and medical director of the Institute for Progressive Medicine. He received his medical degree from Northwestern University Medical School and is board-certified in both Internal Medicine and Nephrology, the study of kidney disease.

For thirteen years Dr. Sosin ran a private internal medicine practice in Philadelphia. During that time he became increasingly interested in alternative approaches to medical problems including nutrition, vitamin and mineral therapies, chelation therapy, acupuncture, natural hormone replacement therapy, exercise and stress management. He also held the position of Assistant Medical Director at The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential, a world-renowned facility for the treatment of brain injured children.

Dr. Sosin is an expert in the use of natural approaches to replace drugs and surgery. He has over 40 years of clinical experience in treating patients with traditional therapies and 15 years experience using alternative methods in combination with conventional medicine. He is a member of the American College for the Advancement of Medicine (ACAM) and is a certified Defeat Autism Now!® physician. Dr. Sosin has also worked extensively with IV therapy, acupuncture and natural hormone replacement therapy. He has successfully treated thousands of patients with serious medical conditions. Dr. Sosin is the author of two books, Alpha Lipoic Acid: Nature's Ultimate Antioxidant, and The Doctor's Guide to Diabetes and Your Child, and has appeared on both radio and television.