New absorbable stent available for heart patients

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Doctors often treat heart blockages with a procedure called angioplasty and stenting. A Kansas City man is the first person in Missouri or Kansas to get a new type of stent since it received FDA approval.

Tim Goff returned to the University of Kansas Hospital this week for the first time since he was rushed there last week while suffering chest pain.

"I was just panicking. Couldn't breathe and wondering what's wrong with me,"  Goff said.

He had a blockage in a heart artery and needed angioplasty. Dr. Matt Earnest made a tiny incision in Goff's wrist, guided a balloon catheter to the heart to unblock the vessel, and placed a stent to keep the artery open.

The new stent called Absorb is made of the same material as absorbable sutures. It disappears over two to three years.

"We're not sure exactly what the benefits are," Dr. Earnest said.

He said it isn't clear what the benefits may be compared to standard metal stents that remain in the vessel. Dr. Earnest said it should make it easier to perform bypass surgery in certain patients if the stent is no longer there. And there's a hint from early studies that patients have fewer adverse events years after getting it.

But in a one-year study, there was a similar incidence of events such as heart attacks compared to metal stents. That's led some doctors to be lukewarm about Absorb. Dr. Earnest is more enthusiastic.

"So for a new technology to come out, something completely different and be just as safe as what we have, I think it's an achievement," he said.

Goff is glad he got the absorbable stent.

"I was all for it 'cause I didn't like the idea of something foreign being in my body, especially a piece of metal," he said.

He's doing well a week after his procedure.

At K.U. Hospital, the cost of the absorbable stent will be the same as it is for metal stents. That hospital was part of the research that led to approval.