Too Many Heart Procedures?

There are more than 1.5 million heart procedures performed annually in the United States, but new research appears to cast doubt over whether that many are called for.

Unless a patient is in the throws of a heart attack, one study shows, non-invasive options provide the same health benefits as ones such as implanting a stent, and with less risk.

Furthermore, a second study concluded that bypass surgery was more successful than stents for heart patients with multiple blocked arteries.

Over the years, the number of heart procedures has increased despite an absence of evidence that the interventions actually prevent heart attacks. In fact, a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel noted in 2006 that stents can sometimes make matters worse.

In Part Four of The Early Show series "HeartScore" Thursday, Dr. Michael Ozner, a preventative cardiologist from Baptist Health South Florida, and author of "The Great American Heart Hoax," spoke with co-anchor Julie Chen.

"These procedures do not prolong life, and they don't prevent heart attacks," said Dr. Ozner. "We have a better approach."

He says heart patients want to ask their doctor these questions upon a procedural recommendation:

1) Is this going to prolong my life or prevent future heart attacks?

2) What are the risks?

3) Are there alternatives?

For stable patients, in whom artery blockage is found but who aren't having heart attacks, "lifestyle intervention with a healthy diet, exercise, stress management and smoking cessation, along with medications, said Ozner, is a "prevention approach ... we should be going down in this country."