Heart Help

Heart Stent: Plastic vs Metal

Abbott Labs has developed a new type of heart stent that may solve a quandary of patients with clogged arteries: to stent or not to stent? Heart stents, typically made of metal mesh tubing, are a common way to improve blood flow in clogged or blocked arteries by holding the damaged artery open. But permanent metallic stents are not a perfect medical solution—after initial stabilization, arteries can reclose or the stents can cause additional cardiac problems. Even drug-eluting stents, which are coated with drugs that prevent an artery from reclosing have been shown to be too risky in patients with coronary artery disease. Abbott has created a stent made of corn-based plastic, a material that has become common in biodegradable food packaging and toys, which will dissolve when it’s no longer needed. Officially called “bioresorbable vascular scaffold,” the corn-based plastic stent has a drug coating that allows it to stay in place for two years before the body begins to absorb the device. It takes between fifteen to eighteen months for the absorption process to finish. Abbott hopes the BVS will, “reset the clock on the disease progression," said Dr. Richard Rapoza, the chemical engineer responsible for developing the BVS. The company expects the devices to hit the market by 2015.