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Revamped Heart Stent Offers Many More Advantages To Patients

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - A new kind of stent is showing promise for heart patients.

It's a revamped version of an older type of stent, but doctors say it has a lot more advantages.

On a business trip, going up an escalator almost brought Zen Piotrowski down.

"I was going up an escalator that was shut down. It was a couple stories tall. When I got to the top of it, I felt some tightness in my chest. And felt a little out of breath," Piotrowski said. "It happened another time within a day or two. So, I was very concerned about it."

As soon as he came home, he saw his doctor and had a stress test, which did not go well.

"I failed my stress test. Which, I was unhappy," Piotrowski said.

In the Cath Lab, doctors found several blockages in his major heart vessels.

As it turns out, just a month before, a new kind of stent was FDA approved. It has a metal cage to prop open the blocked vessel, but also a coating of medicine to keep blood flowing. This coating eventually dissolves in a few months.

"It allows more rapid, but also more complete healing of the artery," St. Clair Hospital's Dr. Jeffrey Friedel said.

Drug coated stents have been around more than a decade, but not without some issues.

"When drug-coated stents were developed, they worked well. The only problem was they worked too well," Dr. Friedel said.

With earlier drug-coated stents, the vessels didn't heal completely, which put the patient at risk for clotting at the stent. Or, there was excessive scar tissue inside the stent, plugging it up -- a process called restenosis.

The new stent has the additional advantage of being ultraflexible, so it can be placed in heart vessels that twist and turn.

"This is a stent that combines all the good technology of stents into one," Dr. Friedel said.

Piotrowski is glad he had the option.

"They went through my wrist - my right wrist. And I really didn't feel it at all," Piotrowski said.

Otherwise, open-heart surgery was the alternative.

"I think I'm kind of fortunate that was available, because my recovery time would have been longer. I would have been on blood thinners probably longer. We'll see how this works out," Piotrowski said.

To make sure he doesn't end up back in the Cath Lab, he's taking extra care.

"I'm eating better. I'm exercising every day," Piotrowski said.

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