Arizona marathon runner receives first dissolvable heart stent

A significant advancement was made this week in cardiovascular care for patients suffering from heart problems.

A new dissolvable heart stent was approved July 5 by the FDA and was implanted into a patient the very next day at HonorHealth in Scottsdale, Ariz.

HonorHealth was the first healthcare system in the U.S. to perform the procedure, but others have already announced they will be doing the same.

David Rizik, MD, a cardiologist at HonorHealth, successfully placed the dissolvable stent on July 6 in Doug Taylor, a 73-year-old marathon runner who suffers from coronary disease and had a heart attack last month.

Until the dissolvable stent was approved, physicians had been using metallic stents, which sometimes fail and prevent patients from getting other procedures or CT scans safely, Rizik said in an interview with Cardiovascular Business.

The new dissolvable stent, manufactured by Abbott Vascular, begins breaking down into carbon dioxide and water molecules after five months, and is completely gone in two to three years. Taylor, who has competed in more than 100 marathons, is recovering smoothly, Rizik said.

“Using a dissolvable stent really buys us options down the road,” Rizik said. “We think [Taylor] has many more good years ahead of him and to limit our options with a permanent metallic implant would be to limit his options.”

Rizik and others have been working on developing the new stent for the last 10 years. Its primary advantage is that it allows blood vessels to expand and contract, allowing them to grow and become stronger, said Maulik Shah, MD, director of the cardiovascular institute at Honor, at a press conference.

“We want the vessel to heal in a more natural way,” Shah said. “This progressive technology that we were able to use in this particular patient is helpful in addressing some of our concerns as we treat heart patients in the future.”

The post-operation road for the dissolvable stent looks similar to that of metallic stents, Rizik said. Patients should expect a couple post-op visits in the first year after the procedure, though it often depends on each patient’s particular condition.

The risk factors for patients choosing between the dissolvable stent and a metallic one are virtually the same. Complications could include the stent acutely closing, chest pain or bleeding from the entry site, Rizik said.

HonorHealth, which has five acute-care hospitals in the greater Phoenix area, is the product of a merger that closed in March between Scottsdale Healthcare and John C. Lincoln Health Network.

Loyola University Health System in Maywood, Illinois, and the Wellmont CVA Heart Institute in Kingsport, Tennessee, have also announced that they will be using the new heart stent in patients.