Visions of a Cure: Visualization, Clinical Trials, and Controversies in Cardiac Therapeutics, 1968-1998
Author(s)Jones, David Shumway
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In the early 1970s physicians engaged in fierce debates over the most appropriate method of evaluating the efficacy of coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG). With millions of patients and billions of dollars at stake, CABG sparked fierce controversy. Skeptics demanded that randomized controlled trials (RCTs) be performed, while enthusiasts argued that they already had visual proof of CABG's efficacy. When RCTs appeared, they did not settle the controversy. Participants simply reasserted their preconceptions, defending a trial's strengths or exploiting its flaws. The debate centered on standards of knowledge for the evaluation of therapeutic efficacy. Specifically, cardiologists and cardiac surgeons struggled to assess the relevance of different measures of therapeutic success: physiological or clinical, visual or statistical. Many factors contributed to participants' decisions, including disciplinary affiliation, traditions of research, personal experience with angiography, and assessments of the history of cardiac therapeutics. Physicians had to decide whether angiography provided a meaningful representation of the disease and its treatment or whether demonstrations of therapeutic success could come only from long-term statistical evaluation of mortality data.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Program in Science, Technology and Society
History of Science Society
Jones, David S. “Visions of a Cure: Visualization, Clinical Trials, and Controversies in Cardiac Therapeutics, 1968-1998.” Isis 91.3 (2000): 504-541. ©2000 The History of Science Society.
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