A novel dissolving heart stent developed by Abbott Laboratories has passed its first major test in a large study, doctors said Monday. The stent performed as well as a conventional stent in the one-year study.
Stents are small expandable tubes that keep blood vessels from reclogging after an artery-opening angioplasty procedure. The ones available now are permanent implants made of metal, usually coated with a material that oozes medicine. Experts say that they sometimes cause inflammation and other issues years down the road.
The dissolving stent known as Absorb stent is made of a degradable material that's designed to stay intact and release medicine for a year, then break down over the next two years.
"It holds the artery open long enough for the artery to heal," then completely goes away, said one study leader, Dr. Dean Kereiakes of Christ Heart and Vascular Center in Cincinnati. "It can return the artery to its normal, natural structure and function."
The study involved about 2,000 patients with chest pain due to one or two clogged arteries. Results showed that those treated with the dissolving stent fared as well as conventional stents.
After one year, 6% to 7% of both groups had died of a heart-related cause, had a heart attack due to a issue with the treated artery or needed a new artery-opening procedure.
Dr. Robert A. Byrne of the Technical University of Munich said that the dissolving stent did not perform better than other conventional stents.
"The idea of a dissolving stent is attractive, but promise alone is not enough to make us unconditionally embrace this technology. A longer study underway now of 5,000 patients will go a long way toward determining whether this promise will become a reality," Byrne said.