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More hospitals can safely unclog arteries

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Associated Press, November 15, 2011

A large study finds that it is OK to have a non-emergency procedure to open clogged heart arteries in a hospital that doesn't have surgeons ready to operate if something goes wrong. The results could help make this much more available in rural areas and at smaller community hospitals. The procedure, called balloon angioplasty, has become so safe that surgical backup is no longer needed when treating low-risk, simple cases, doctors say. Only about 20 states allow this now, and hospitals in some areas have sued so they can offer it. "The intent of this project was not to expand the number of centers doing angioplasty" but to give policymakers an idea whether it is safe, said study leader Dr. Thomas Aversano of Johns Hopkins University. He presented results Monday at an American Heart Association conference in Florida.