Tupelo’s NMMC implants nation’s first absorbable heart stent

January 3, 2013

Health, Health Care

TUPELO — Cardiologists at North Mississippi Medical Center’s Heart Institute recently implanted the nation’s first absorbable stent as part of a research study.

Abbott Vascular received FDA approval in December to begin the ABSORB trial in the United States. Absorb, the world’s first drug eluting bioresorbable vascular scaffold, is a first-of-its-kind device for treating coronary artery disease. It works by restoring blood flow to the heart similar to a metal stent, but then dissolves into the body. The result is a treated vessel that may resume more natural function and movement because it is free of a permanent metal stent.

Absorb is made of polylactide, a naturally dissolvable material that is commonly used in medical implants such as dissolving sutures. The device is referred to as a scaffold because it is a temporary structure, unlike a stent, which is a permanent implant. The scaffold supports the vessel until the artery can stay open on its own, and then dissolves naturally.

The potential long-term benefits of a scaffold that dissolves are significant. The vessel may expand and contract as needed to increase the flow of blood to the heart in response to normal activities such as exercising; treatment and diagnostic options are broadened; the need for long-term treatment with anti-clotting medications may be reduced; and future interventions would be unobstructed by a permanent implant.

“This technology represents a true shift in the way that doctors will treat patients with severe obstructive coronary artery disease,” said Barry Bertolet, M.D., an interventional cardiologist whose team at the NMMC Heart Institute implanted the first Absorb stent in the United States on Dec. 28. “We are excited about Absorb because it may allow blood vessels to return to a more natural state and expand long-term diagnostic and treatment options for cardiac patients.”

Worldwide data seems to indicate that the Absorb scaffold performs similar to a best-in-class drug eluting stent across traditional measures such as major adverse cardiovascular events and target lesion revascularization, while providing additional benefits associated with a device that dissolves over time. As the Absorb scaffold dissolves, vascular function is potentially restored to the blood vessel, allowing more blood to flow through the vessel as the body requires.

“I give all the credit on this first case to the supporting staff at Abbott Vascular, the NMMC Institutional Review Board, NMMC’s Cath Lab staff and the Cardiology Associates of North Mississippi research team for their hard work and dedication,” Dr. Bertolet added. “We are all very excited about this game-changing technology and all the lives that will benefit from this research.”

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women around the world. Coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease, occurs when arteries that supply blood to the heart become narrowed or blocked, leading to chest pain or shortness of breath and increased risk of heart attack.

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