A New Generation of Heart Stents

Drug eluding stents carry a 50 percent lower risk of stent thrombosis

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Treatments are improving for heart attack patients with obstructed blood vessels. Newer technologies are both safer and more effective.

When a patients suffers from narrowed blood vessels, they are usually aided with angioplasty, which involves using a balloon catheter to widen the vessel. That is often followed by placement of a stent to hold the blood vessel open.

In the past, most angioplasty have been bare metal stents. But the new generation of drug eluting stents have helped cut the risk of repeat angioplasty and stent implantation.

"Ask your cardiologist about new drug-eluting stents."

The newer stents were developed to overcome limitations of the plain metal stents. Earlier studies had suggested there could be concerns about using drug eluting stents safely long term, according to research recently presented at the European Society of Cardiology's 2011 Congress in Paris.

Dr. Sarno Giovanna, an Italian physician, and a team of investigators used a national Swiss registry that included complete consecutive patient information from 29 centers in Sweden that performed percutaneous coronary intervention, which includes coronary angioplasty and stent placement.

The Swedish Coronary Angiography and Angioplasty Registry (SCAAR) included 94,384 stent implantations in Sweden from November 2006 through October 2010. Follow up exams were performed two years after initial stent placement.

Patients included were not selected specifically, and were meant to represent real world populations. Some patients had suffered heart attacks, graft disease or had other medical conditions.

Researchers found that the use of drug eluting stents reduced the recurrence rate by 38 percent over bare metal stents. In addition, drug eluting stents were found to carry a 50 percent lower risk of stent thrombosis, an uncommon but serious coronary artery stent complication that usually results in heart attack or death. The risk reduction was calculated two years after implantation.

Additional studies are needed to determine which of the the three components of the new stents -- the polymer, the stent alloy or the eluting drug -- has helped to lower the risks. Improved stent designs that are thinner also might have an impact.

A previous study at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart and Vascular Institute suggested that drug eluting stents are safe with limited use. The current research did not advocate for additional stent usage, nor call for limitations.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 30, 2011
Last Updated:
September 2, 2011