The Journal of the American Medical Association's report that angioplasty is considerably more effective in saving the lives of heart attack victims than clot busting drugs is not only good news for heart patients, but for our two-state area as well.
Both cardiac treatments have the same goal - to clear an artery blockage that deprives the heart of oxygen. In angioplasty, a balloon-tip catheter is threaded into the artery to open it. Clot-dissolving drugs are given intravenously.
Whether one treatment is better than the other is debatable, but the AMA publication's research makes it plain angioplasty is up to 40 percent more effective, providing it is done by experienced doctors and staff in hospitals with the requisite equipment.
Not all communities have such hospitals or cardiac specialists, but our two-state area is fortunate to have several. University Hospital and the Medical College of Georgia are the area's two major heart hospitals. The Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center also has an emergency angioplasty program.
The Aiken Regional Medical Centers had a long, acrimonious fight with the state earlier this decade to get its angioplasty program sanctioned, but now it, too, has the kind of experience the AMA journal calls for.
Dr. Abdulla M. Abdulla, MCG chief of cardiology and a practitioner at University Hospital, points out that angioplasty experience is necessary because there are so many decisions to be made regarding the interventionist procedure.
An inexperienced practitioner simply hasn't developed the judgment required to make angioplasty any more effective than drug clot treatment - this is what, for years, confused the debate over which therapy is better.