Heart Health: Coronary Bypass Surgery or Angioplasty?

Some experts say patients with coronary artery disease don't get enough information to judge.

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Patients—the ones who actually live with the treatment, its side effects, complications, and any benefits—can and should be participating in the decision making, Fisher says. "We believe in informed patient choice," he explains, "not informed patient consent." The smart way for heart patients to get all the risks and benefits of each option laid out is to make appointments with several different types of doctors: a cardiac interventionalist who would perform the angioplasty and place the stent, a cardiac surgeon who would handle a bypass, and a general internist who does neither procedure and might be more likely to present unbiased information. Without all the comparable risk and benefit information, "patients may think [a procedure] is a cure," says Wong. The reality is, these are not.