WHAT: One in eight U.S. patients with nonemergency heart stent operations are likely to receive more harm than good from those small metal mesh tubes inserted into blocked arteries.
HOW: About 600,000 U.S. stents are inserted annually. They can save the lives of patients with heart attacks or severe chest pains, but almost 55,000 were questionable and 16,838 were inappropriate.
WHY: Stent operations are $20,000 each and cost the U.S. $12 billion a year. They carry risks of major bleeding or tears, which are increased by the required clot-buster medications.