Some 600,000 Americans undergo a cardiac stent procedure each year. For people having a heart attack or at risk for a heart event, stents (metal mesh devices inserted during a cardiac angioplasty procedure to open or maintain the artery pathways) can be life-saving, as they keep blood flowing to the heart. Stents are used where a patient’s coronary arteries are fully or partially blocked due to build up of fatty deposits called plaque. Traditionally, stents are permanent installations. But recently, the MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute became the first in the Baltimore-Washington area to offer the Absorb™ Stent, a bioresorbable stent.
How the Absorb™ Stent Benefits Patients
“The Absorb scaffold is a major advancement in the treatment of coronary artery disease that has the potential to affect quality of life and address patients’ desire to leave no metallic stent behind,” said Ron Waksman, MD, director of Cardiovascular Research at MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute, and the principal investigator of the ABSORB III trial.
Similar to dissolving sutures, the Absorb™ Stent dissolves gradually over a 12-month period and disappears entirely after three years. Only four small metallic markers are left behind, as an identifier of the prior location of the stent within the artery.
But why does a fully-dissolving stent help patients?
Dr. Waksman explains, “The fact that no metal material is left in the body allows the vessel to heal itself and reduces adverse side effects of permanent implants.”
Who Is the Absorb™ Stent for?
It’s important to note that the Absorb™ Stent isn’t for everyone. In a recent study, patients who had the Absorb™ Stent had similar outcomes after one year to those who had the more conventional metal stent. In that same study, however, heart-related complications were slightly elevated for those with the Absorb™ Stent.
Moreover, patients who are unable to take blood thinners for long periods of time or possess smaller vessels are not good candidates for this new breed of stent.
Dr. Waksman says the MedStar interventional cardiology team will continue to provide traditional stents for most of their coronary heart disease patients, as the safety assessment of the Absorb™ Stent continues.
The Front Line of Innovation for Heart Patients
Currently, MedStar Washington Hospital Center and MedStar Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore offer the new stent. At the Hospital Center, a man in his 80's became the first patient to receive the dissolvable stent a month after the FDA approval.
“Once again MedStar is on the front line of medical technology the first to offer new innovation to Mid-Atlantic and DC patients, this time it is a bioresorbable scaffold that perform similar to a metallic stent but disappears from the body overtime and leave nothing behind, said Dr. Waksman.