KANSAS CITY, Kan.— Cardiologists at The University of Kansas Hospital have embarked on a clinical trial to see if a coronary stent that slowly dissolves into a vessel can effectively protect the heart and enhance the free flow of blood.
Conventional stents are tiny, metallic, mesh-like scaffolds that prop open vessels gummed up by plaque, dead cells and clotted blood that can lead to a heart attack or a stroke. More than half a million Americans receive one every year.
The new device under study is made of a disappearing, biodegradable polymer that leaves behind no traces of its existence other than an opened and possibly more pliable vessel.
“Unlike metallic stents that stay within the vessels permanently, this scaffold completely dissolves within about two years after implantation,” said Mark Wiley, MD, an interventional cardiologist at The University of Kansas Hospital. “This new device’s ability to vanish over time is as close as science comes to magic.”
Being free of a permanent implant allows a vessel the possibility to regain some of its natural flexibility. At the same time, the medication impregnated in the absorbable stent helps prevent re-clogging.
Wiley said if the Food and Drug Administration approves the new device, patients will have an option that frees them from having a lifelong implant. He predicts the stent will transform the way heart attacks and severe coronary blockages will be treated within the next few years. The absorbable stent has already been approved for use in Europe.
The University of Kansas Hospital is one of about 100 heart centers in the country, and the only one in the Kansas City area, participating in the study.