An expensive new technique designed to prevent recurrent strokes by closing up holes in patients’ hearts is no more effective than the standard drug treatment, new research shows.
Researchers, reporting in the New England Journal of Medicine, found the new method of using a catheter procedure to close openings in the heart’s upper chambers offers no improvement in treatment than the standard use of aspirin or warfarin.
For the study -- led by University Hospitals Case Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine – researchers compared the experiences of more than 909 stroke patients who underwent the so-called “Starflex Septal Closure System” or received aspirin and wayfarin alone.
Although the study was designed to show the new technique was the better option, researchers actually found virtually no difference in the rate of patients who suffered recurrent strokes.
"These important findings will serve as a guidepost in the prevention of stroke in patients," said lead researcher Dr. Anthony J. Furlan.
An editorial accompanying the study noted that it took nine years for the results to be reported and during that time, approximately 80,000 patients underwent the new technique at an average cost of $10,000 per procedure.
"Even if only half these patients were treated by this method for the purpose of preventing stroke, it would suggest that during that period of time $400 million was spent on a procedure that had no apparent benefit, to say nothing of the potential clinical risks involved," it said.