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How good are the new Drug Eluting Stents for treating and preventing heart attack?

Posted Sep 18 2012 5:03am

Stents are effectively tubes that are inserted into the coronaryRelating to the arteries supplying the heart itself. arteries to hold them open after they have become blocked. A blocked coronary arteryA blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart. Apart from the pulmonary artery and umbilical artery, all arteries carry oxygenated blood. or ‘thrombosisThe formation of a blood clot.’ is the chief cause of heart attackThe death of a section of heart muscle caused by an interruption in its blood supply. Also called a myocardial infarction. or myocardial Infarction (MIMyocardial infarction. Death of a segment of heart muscle, which follows interruption of its blood supply.). The theory is perfect, but in practice is was found that the stents themselves then became a cause of further blockage by bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. deposits (atherosclerosisDisease leading to fatty deposits in the inner walls of the arteries, which reduce and may eventually obstruct blood flow.) and so the next step was to produce stents that were impregnated with drugs that had atherosclerosis busting properties. Again, the theory sounds good, but it took some time before the best stent and drug eluent combinations were found.

The latest findings have been published by one of the major manufacturers themselves, Medtronic. They report that the new clinical trial involving their drug eluting stent (DESAn abbreviation for diethylstilbestrol, a synthetic female sex hormone.) demonstrates the long-term benefits offered by drug-eluting stent technology to coronary artery diseaseNarrowing of the blood vessels supplying the heart muscle, leading to symptoms such as angina and sometimes to a heart attack or myocardial infarction patients. The trial is the largest prospective randomised drug-eluting stent trial ever presented and was carried out to assess the risk posed by stent thrombosis. The trial involved more than 8,700 patients across three years of follow-up, and found that occurrences of stent thrombosis were extremely uncommon, thus demonstrating the long-term safety of the devices.

Results from this trial also show that stent thrombosis rates have fallen considerably in recent years, which could be due in part to better procedural / surgical techniques and patient selection. Dr Wijns, an interventional cardiologist and co-director of the Cardiovascular Center in Aalst, Belgium, said: "Based on its excellent clinical outcomes and low rates of stent thrombosis through three years of follow-up, this trial confirms the long-term safety of percutaneous coronary interventionAngioplasty: the mechanical widening or clearing of a narrowed or obstructed blood vessel. with these drug-eluting stents."

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