This was a story reporting on the result of a recently published study examining long term consequences of the method used to harvest leg veins for use in coronary bypass surgery. It contained a clinician quote that helped to provide some balance for comparing the two methods. While it may be true that the less invasive way of harvesting leg veins may result in a greater chance of having a heart attack or dying in the next 3 years, it is also true that the less invasive way of harvesting leg veins results in a faster recovery with less immediate complications than the open procedure.
It would have been useful for the story to have contained some exploration on how the trade-off of benefit now for increased risk later may be factors in decisions made by doctors and patients.
There was no discussion of cost differential for the two methods of harvesting veins; further there was no discussion about how the shortened hospital stay associated with the small incision method affected the cost.
The story compared the relative risks of long term problems; this does not provide readers with any sense about how frequently the problems mentioned occur. Instead, the information should be presented as absolute risk.
The story did not provide quantitative information for assessing how the procedures compare with respect to length of hospital stay and immediate complications. Beyond this, for balance, the story should have included more detail about the short-term benefits of harvesting veins with a smaller incision. These include reductions in wound-related complications, postoperative pain, hospital length of stay, outpatient wound management resources which are not trivial considerations.
While the story included information about the number of patients that were in the study reported on, it neglected to discuss the nature of the study. The story did not include information about the limitations of the evidence in the study – particularly that it was a non-randomized study with wide variation in the rate different procedures were used to harvest veins, there was no standardized patient selection or the means of harvesting and preserving the veins.
The story did not seem to engage in overt disease mongering.
Quotes from a co-author of the study reported and two local cardiovascular surgeons were included as part of this story.
While discussing two methods for harvesting leg veins, it seems curious that it did not also mention the use of mammary arteries as a source of vascular material. Although the study reported on did not cover this, this would have provided readers with a more complete picture of the available options.
The story included estimates of the frequency of harvesting legs veins through a small incision, one a general estimate for the US (70%) and one specific to Ohio State (90%).
This wasn’t a story about a new treatment but rather about new information about two procedures currently in use.
Does not appear to rely exclusively on a press release.