YOUR HEALTH: Questioning stent safety

ORANGE, California – 63-year old Charles Tasso was at his dialysis center when his heart went into A-fib.

"I mean, I thought it was an elephant sitting on my chest. That's the first time I had experienced any pain."

Dr. Michael Chan used the absorb stent for Charles, who already has traditional metal stents.   It's made of polylactide, which is similar to what's in dissolvable stitches.   The stent dissolves in three years, so the artery is flexible again.

"It allows us to theoretically have less inflammation," explained Dr. Michael Chan, interventional cardiologist with St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California.

"Because of that, it also reduces the risk of clot formation that can form late on stents because of that metal exposure."

But an FDA review showed an 11% rate of cardiac problems like heart attack and a 1.9% rate of blood clots after two years with the absorb stent.
This compares with 7.9% and 0.8% with a metal stent.

Abbott Labs and Dr. Chan say the right implantation technique and the right patients minimize risk.

"I think that if it's not used in the proper setting, then the risks are higher," said Dr. Chan.   "We've seen that in smaller vessels that the heart attack risk as you mentioned, and risks of clotting are higher."

19% of people in the study had arteries that are too small for the device under usage guidelines. Removing their results equalizes findings.

"As technology evolves, there are many in our field that feel like this will be the next generation," said Dr. Chan.

Dr. Chan will keep using the absorb stent on patients who fit the stricter criteria, while the FDA does more study.

The latest technology in scaffold technology is the DESolve Scaffold System, a biodegradable stent that degrades in about one year, leaving behind a thin neointimal lining and a well-maintained lumen.

SYMPTOMS/TREATMENT: Symptoms of heart disease are chest pains and shortness of breath. Arterial plaque occurs as a result of easily correctable problems such as unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, being overweight, and smoking. However, there are instances where an individual might require surgery to prevent plaque accumulation. These procedures may include a stent replacement, bypass surgery, and balloon angioplasty. A stent replacement is when a small tube is placed in the artery to maintain the blood flow. Bypass surgery is when arteries from other parts of the body are moved to help oxygen-rich blood flow. Balloon angioplasty is when a device is used to push the plaque against the side walls of the arteries. Moreover, medications can help control some of the factors that lead to clogged arteries such as drugs specifically designed to lower cholesterol and high blood pressure.  (Source: http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/clogged-arteries-arterial-plaque#1)

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.