People who undergo a balloon angioplasty to open a clogged artery often receive a stent as well a small, wire-mesh device inserted into the artery to keep it from closing. The problem with older stents, however, has been that they can trigger an immune response from the cells in the walls of the artery that cause the artery to become occluded.
Stents coated with drugs to stop this process have been touted as the answer to this problem. Researchers after having collected data from 11 studies comparing bare-metal stents with the newer drug-eluting stents say that their results show people who had the drug-eluting stents were significantly less likely than those receiving the bare-metal stents to experience severe cardiac events, 8 percent vs. 16 percent. They were also more likely to avoid an episode of restenosis, or reblocking of the artery, six to 12 months later, a common problem for anyone undergoing balloon angioplasty. Thirty percent of the bare-metal stent patients experienced reblockage compared to just 9 percent of those who got a drug-eluting stent.
The analysis found no difference in mortality rates or subsequent heart attacks in the two groups. However researchers say long term follow-up is needed to fully determine the safety and effectiveness of drug-eluting stents, especially in patients considered at high risk of complications.