LOVELAND, Colo. – Heart specialists at UCHealth’s Medical Center of the Rockies are the first in Colorado to use the newest treatment option for patients with coronary artery disease – a stent that dissolves when it’s no longer needed.
In a milestone procedure Aug. 8, a 70-year-old Greeley man received Abbott’s Absorb bioresorbable vascular scaffold at MCR. The new dissolving stent, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration last month, is a major development in the treatment of coronary artery disease, which affects 15 million people in the United States and remains a leading cause of death worldwide despite decades of therapeutic advances.
A stent is a small tube placed inside a narrow or weak coronary artery, allowing it to again efficiently channel blood into the heart muscle, facilitating optimal pump function. Most traditional stents are made of metal and require patients to take a daily dose of baby aspirin and other blood thinners for life to prevent blood clots.
The new Absorb dissolving stent is made from a naturally dissolving material known as Poly-L-lactide, similar to dissolving sutures. It disappears completely in about three years, after it has done its job of keeping a clogged artery open and promoting healing of the treated artery segment. The only traces of the stent that will remain are two pairs of tiny metallic markers that will show where the stent was implanted.
To implant the stent, a cardiologist uses a catheter that has been inserted in an artery in the wrist or leg to guide the device to the coronary artery. The patient is under conscious sedation during the procedure, which typically lasts about 60 minutes. Many patients are able to go home the same day.
UCHealth interventional cardiologist Dr. Matthew Purvis, who conducted MCR’s first procedure earlier this month, likes to compare stents to a cast. “If you break your arm, you receive a cast, which ultimately is removed to restore normal mobility and muscle function,” he said. “When placing a conventional stent to the coronary artery, the stent is like a cast that never comes off. The new Absorb stent acts like a cast at first to open and fix the lesion, but it then gradually dissolves, allowing the vessel to function normally again.”
After the stent dissolves, there’s also a reduced risk of future blockages that occur with metal stents. It’s also easier for doctors to offer additional interventions in the future.
While the dissolving stent is new to the market, it is not new to the heart specialists at MCR. Several heart patients at the hospital were among the first in the country to have access to the dissolving stent in the past couple years because the Loveland hospital was part of two clinical trials that focused on the Absorb stent.
The most recent trial, which is still underway, is examining how well the dissolving stents perform comparably to the most effective drug-coated, metal stents on the market. The trial not only compares traditional clinical endpoints between the two stents, such as readmissions and continuing pain, but also quality of life over five years.
UCHealth cardiologist Dr. Anthony Doing, the site primary investigator for the Absorb stent trials conducted at MCR, said it is one on a long list of clinical trials MCR has conducted in recent years, including several stent trials over that past 10 years.
MCR’s extensive experience working with the dissolving stent in the clinical trials is why the hospital was selected to be the first in the state to be able to offer this to patients immediately following FDA approval, he said.
“UCHealth’s commitment to innovation is a drive to improve outcomes for every patient we care for today and down the road,” Doing said. “And because of that, we are able to give patients access to some of the latest advancements in medicine right here in northern Colorado.”
For more information about the Absorb dissolvable stent or to schedule an appointment to see a specialist at MCR, call 970-818-8102.