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Smart Stents Revolutionize Heart Surgery: Promising Results in Study

Early this year, doctors told 65-year-old Ron Rogan that he needed a metal stent to prop open an artery that was causing shortness of breath.

Before the procedure, they asked him to join a 1,100-patient study that was comparing traditional stents with so-called smart stents, which contain a powerful antibiotic.

"I just felt that if I had to have a stent put in, why not possibly get something better, an upgrade. Instead of a Cadillac, a Mercedes," Rogan tells CBS 2's Paul Moniz.

Stents are small pieces of metal placed at the site of an arterial blockage to maintain blood flow following balloon angioplasty. Stents are much more effective than balloon angioplasty alone, but cardiologist Dr. Martin Leon says there can be a significant downside.

"Stents actually engendered a wound-healing effect in the artery and the building up of scar tissue on the inside of the artery causes a reblockage," he explains.

One-third of stent patients experience restenosis, or reclogging. The antibiotic Sirolimus coats the experimental stents. The drug blocks the growth of excess tissue that can cause clogs.

In a study of 238 patients in Europe and Latin America, patients who received drug-coated stents had a reclog rate of 0%. After 6 months, no one reclogged, a nearly unheard of success rate in a clinical trial. Meantime, 22% of patients with traditional stents experienced reclogging.

Patients with drug-coated stents had a heart attack rate of just 3% compared to 26% among those with the traditional stent.

Dr. Leon of New York's Lenox Hill Heart and Vascular Institute, a principal investigator in the study, says the potential for the device is huge.

"This will be, without question, the most historic advance in the history of interventional cardiology," he says. "It will take angioplasty to the point where it is safe, effective, and definite."

Dr. Leon says so far results from surgeries performed 2 years ago show no reclogging with the drug-coated stent and no adverse effects. He believes the results are permanent.

"It doesn't mean that atherosclerosis or other blockages cannot occur in other locations, but the treatment site, the site where the stent was placed, will be impervious to restenosis," he says.

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