Not having the metal stent inside also prevents scar tissue from forming, reducing the likelihood of a heart attack or a further stent. It also give doctors a clear path in the event bypass surgery or other procedures become necessary, Cochran said.
“The fact that this will go away completely, it probably preserves most if not all of your options,” he said.
Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in July, the Absorb GT1 Bioresorbable Vascular Scaffold System stent is “the only fully dissolving stent approved for the treatment of coronary artery disease,” according to Illinois-based manufacturer Abbott Vascular, which developed the stent over the past 12 years.
Coronary heart disease is responsible for approximately 370,000 deaths each year in the United States, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The condition develops when cholesterol-containing deposits build up and narrow the coronary arteries, decreasing blood flow to the heart. Scar tissue can form within the stent causing the artery to narrow again.
Doctors often treat coronary artery disease with a procedure called angioplasty to widen the artery using a metal stent, which first were introduced to the medical world in 1993, according to Mike Carpenter, an executive account manager for Abbott. They were followed in 2004 by drug-eluting stents, which temporarily release a drug, typically for a few months after stent placement, to combat the formation of scar tissue.
The new stent dissolves between 18 and 36 months, Carpenter said.
“We’re also finding that after five years, the artery’s lumen size is actually larger than when we first put it in,” he said.
Fairfield Hospital is the only hospital in Cincinnati where patients can receive the stents for now, but Mercy Health-The Heart Institute’s interventional cardiologists at Anderson and West Hospitals and The Jewish Hospital will complete training and offer the procedure at those hospitals in the coming weeks.
Sureshbai Patel, 78, of Wyoming, had the new stent implanted in his circumflex artery Nov. 8 after having a traditional stent put in a right-side artery a little more than a month earlier following a heart attack.
He said it was a relief to know the device would merely dissolve inside of him instead of remaining their and becoming a possible impediment.
“I feel perfectly fine,” he said. “Everything is working out alright so far.”