Dissolvable heart stents have recently been approved by the FDA for use on patients in the United States. After months of clinical trials, the first commercial dissolvable heart stent was given in Arizona to a 73-year-old man named Doug Taylor. He hopes that the stent will aid him in his goal of getting back to running marathons again.
A stent is used to flatten the plaque which may be restricting blood flow in a patient’s blood vessels. The metal structure, with a small balloon wrapped inside of it, is put inside of a blood vessel and then inflated. The balloon helps open up the vessel wall and allows increased blood flow and prevents serious cardiac episodes.
However, many patients require more than one stent in their heart over a lifetime. This can cause layers of metal to build up in the blood vessels and make it difficult for doctors to perform bypass surgeries due to inflammation from the stent. This new stent will prevent these complications by absorbing within the body over time.
Although the dissolvable stent isn’t said to work any more effectively than its metal counterpart, it can still prevent many of the issues that using a metal stent causes. However, data on the long-term efficacy of the new device won’t be available for another four years. Negative reactions to the stent may include allergic reactions, internal bleeding and infections.
Dr. Gregg Stone, of Columbia University Medical Center, who helped conduct research on the new device, aptly called Absorb, stated, “We have good theoretical reasons to believe that by getting rid of the stent, and allowing the coronary artery to restore its normal shape, that will prevent many of those late events.”
Researchers found that those receiving Absorb faced a slightly higher risk of a heart-related issue than those who used the metal stents. The higher value was only up by 1.7 percent, which is not considered statistically significant. Therefore, it is currently considered as effective as the metal stents.
Anna Scanlon is an author of YA and historical fiction and a PhD student at the University of Leicester where she is finishing her degree in modern history.