New Stents Save Hearts

Doctors have new weapons in their war chest to fight heart disease. The newest, given FDA approval March 4, is already in use in Topeka.

The stent was developed ten years ago to hold open a vessel that's been weakened by a blockage. The new "Taxus Express" stent is only the second such device coated with a drug to prevent scarring that may re-narrow an artery.

"It may be a little easier to use. We may be able to get it to go places we couldn't before," said cardiologist Dr. Patrick Sheehy with the Cotton-O'Neil Heart Center. "The further out we get, the more challenging it can be. The arteries get smaller, so to have a stent that's smaller and more flexible is advantageous."

Dr. Sheehy said drug-eluting stents are best for patients with small vessel or diabetes. But because they require a longer time on medication and carry some small risks, he said other patients might be better off with bare metal stents.

On that front, Stormont-Vail uses the chromium cobalt "Driver" stent. Dr. Sheehy said, compared to stainless steel, chromium cobalt is a very soft, flexible material. He said there's also evidence it may produce less of a scarring process and get results nearly as good as a drug-eluting stent.

The end goal of both, though, is the same - to get a vessel open and keep it open as long as possible.

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