Doctors have a legal responsible to seek true informed consent from the patient, although most pay lip service to their responsibilities – but researchers say it’s vital when it comes to heart surgery. Many patients are having stents fitted to unblock arteries, and aren’t being told the procedure won’t save their life or prevent a heart attack.

Although the procedure can help someone live longer after a heart attack, many more have stents fitted when they have ‘stable heart disease’, but have not had a heart attack. For these people, the procedure – properly known as percutaneous coronary intervention, or PCI – might help reduce angina, or chest pains, but it wouldn’t do much more, although most patients seemed to have the impression that it could even be a life-saver, says Dr Aseem Malhotra, consultant clinical associate to the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges.

Absolute transparency is imperative before the patient undergoes the risky procedure, and it’s one occasion when true informed consent – where the real risks and rewards are explained – is gained, he said.

Source: JAMA Internal Medicine, 2014; doi: 10.1001/ jamainternmed.2013.9190