Doctors Excited by 'Breakthrough' Heart Stent
Sept. 4, 2001 -- Doctors say a new, tiny metal scaffold used to
reopen blocked heart arteries could be more successful in keeping them open,
now that it can release drugs to prevent the cardiac curse of restenosis, or
A study of 238 patients in Europe and Latin America, presented
Tuesday at a meeting of the European Society of Cardiology in Stockholm, found
that the arteries closed up again in 26% of patients who got a regular stent.
But there was no narrowing at all in any of the patients who got the
"The study is a major breakthrough," said David Faxon,
MD, president of the American Heart Association, in a prepared statement. He
adds the findings could dramatically change the way doctors try to open clogged
heart arteries short of full-blown bypass surgery. "Unlike the stents that
were introduced in early '90s that resulted in only a modest decrease in
reblockage, these drug-eluting stents have the potential to offer significant
reductions in the restenosis rate."
Nearly all of the patients who got the new stent, called
Cypher, had no further heart trouble in the following six months, compared with
about three-quarters of the others.
"We are probably witnessing a new era in the treatment of
coronary [heart] disease," said the study's lead investigator, Dr.
Marie-Claude Morice, head of interventional cardiology at the Jacques Cartier
Hospital Institute in Massy, France.
Among heart doctors, enthusiasm ran high.
Dr. Wim van der Giessen, professor of cardiology at Erasmus
University in Rotterdam, Netherlands, who was not involved in the study,
predicted the new type of stent could eventually be used in other blood vessels
and for bigger blockages. Those patients are now treated with drugs or
"It's very convincing. It's a definite breakthrough,"
added Dr. Philip Urban, director of interventional cardiology at Latour
Hospital in Geneva, who was not connected with the research either.
In his prepared statement, Faxon also noted more study will be
needed to determine how helpful the new stent could be for patients who need a
procedure to open narrowed heart arteries. Other experts are being more
"I'm impressed," said Dr. Karl Karsch, head of
cardiology at Bristol University in England, "but I'm always suspicious
when the complication rate is zero. We have seen devices before that were very
promising at this stage. Everybody was excited and it turned out that after two
or three years there was a certain [relapse]."
Van der Giessen added that the rarely reported problem of
contaminated (or infected) stents may get worse because the drug coating
hampers the immune response.
More than one third of heart disease patients get angioplasty
-- about 1 million people every year worldwide. Some patients have it done
several times because their arteries keep renarrowing. An additional 700,000
people worldwide have heart surgery every year.