New Study Challenges

Angioplasty Guidelines

A provocative new study challenges the notion that heart attack victims have only 12 hours in which to undergo an artery-clearing angioplasty. The study found that patients who had the procedure as much as two days after being stricken still benefited.

Cardiologists generally believe they have a 12-hour window after a heart attack starts to reopen clogged arteries and save heart muscle from damage caused by interrupted blood flow. Current guidelines discourage angioplasties beyond that window.

But in the study of 365 European patients hospitalized 12 to 48 hours after symptoms began, patients who got immediate angioplasties had substantially less heart-muscle damage than those treated initially with drugs alone.

Tests several days after treatment showed that 8 percent of the heart muscle was damaged in angioplasty patients vs. 13 percent in the others.

The study was led by Albert Schomig of Technische University in Germany and was published in today's Journal of the American Medical Association. It was partly funded by the makers of ReoPro and heart stents.

Fish Oil May Endanger

Some Heart Patients

Fish oil appears to do more harm than good for heart patients who have surgically implanted defibrillators to shock their weakened hearts back into rhythm, researchers said yesterday.

In a study of 200 patients with the electrical devices, half took fish oil supplements and the other half olive oil. Those who consumed fish oil had more episodes of dangerous heart arrhythmia that often precede heart attacks.

Fish oil -- either from eating fish such as cod or in supplement form -- has previously been found to reduce by about 25 percent the risk of fatal heart attacks in survivors of a previous attack.

Nearly two-thirds of the patients who took fish oil and suffered from tachycardia, or rapid heartbeat, had episodes over a six-month period, twice the rate of those taking a placebo. Forty-six percent of the patients who suffered from fibrillation, where the heart flutters, and who took fish oil had episodes compared with 36 percent of placebo-taking patients.

The study was led by Merritt Raitt of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Portland, Ore.

-- From News Services