Cover Story

A Stent in Time

by Wynce Nolley

Drug-eluting stents are tiny mesh tubes that physicians use to prop open clogged arteries in order for blood to flow freely to the heart.

Drug-eluting stents are tiny mesh tubes that physicians use to prop open clogged arteries in order for blood to flow freely to the heart. The stents are usually composed of three parts: a metal structure, a drug coating that helps the body accept the stent after it has been implanted and a polymer that helps deliver the drug to the body. The drug coating is absorbed by the body after a few months, leaving behind the polymer and metal.

Stents are effective, and serious complications don’t occur often. Still, there is always room for improving outcomes, which is why Heart Hospital of Lafayette is taking an important step to reduce the risk of complications such as vessel re-narrowing and blood clots in order to promote faster healing.

The local hospital is one of the few medical centers in the country using the new SYNERGY Bioabsorbable Polymer Drug-Eluting Coronary Stent, the first dissolvable polymer stent approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat coronary artery disease. The SYNERGY stent allows synchronized drug and polymer absorption that enables more rapid and complete arterial healing, and reduces the risk of complications associated with long-term polymer exposure compared to other drug-eluting stents with permanent polymers.

Dr. Eric Thomassee, who specializes in cardiovascular diseases and interventional cardiology at Heart Hospital, says that one of the biggest advantages of the SYNERGY stent is that it reduces the chance of complications involving scar tissue developing in recovering patients.

“This new stent allows the drug and the polymer to be bioabsorbed,” says Thomassee. “Therefore, in several months those two parts of the stent are no longer there and you’re left with just the metal of the stent.”

According to Thomassee, it’s been shown that the polymer contained in many stents can contribute to inflammation that can then cause scar tissue to form on the stent.

“The complication that this stent helps out with is called In-Stent Restenosis, which is scar tissue that forms on the stent as your body reacts to the metal and the other products that are in the stent,” says Thomassee. “Typically the polymer is what your body is reacting to, so if the stent dissolves its polymer in three to four months, then there are less problems with scar tissue forming on them. In general, the bioabsorbable polymer decreases inflammation and allows the stent to have less complications.”

The SYNERGY stent was approved for use by the FDA in October and is being studied in more than 15,000 patients worldwide. According to Thomassee, Heart Hospital is the first medical center in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Tennessee to implant this stent.

“It’s the newest technology that we have in our arsenal to treat patients, where we can help them out and then avoid the common complications that we see with stents,” Thomassee notes. “We are hopeful that they will benefit from it compared to older stents, and even though the complication rate of stents is very small, any reduction in those risks is worth exploring.”