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​UPMC First in Region to Use New Fully Dissolving Heart Stent

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Lawerence Synett
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7/14/2016

PITTSBURGH, July 14, 2016 - UPMC is the first hospital in western Pennsylvania to use Abbott’s fully dissolving Absorb GT1 Biodegradable Vascular Scaffold System (BVS), a first-of-its-kind device recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It functions by opening a blocked artery in the heart, restoring blood flow and providing relief from symptoms of coronary artery disease (CAD). A 58-year-old woman with severe coronary artery disease was the first patient to receive the absorbable device Tuesday.

“We’re only at the beginning of understanding the potential benefits of this technology that could have long-lasting impacts for our patients,” said Catalin Toma, M.D., assistant professor, Division of Cardiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and director for interventional cardiology research at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute and one of the initial medical experts with access to the technology. “By resorbing in time, these implants allow for restoration of the vessel’s natural function without the restriction of the traditional metallic cage of the stent. This may have a positive effect on vessel healing for months and years to come.”

The most common type of heart disease, CAD occurs when arteries that supply blood to the heart become narrowed or blocked due to plaque buildup, leading to chest pain and shortness of breath, as well as an increased risk of heart attack. When patients present with heart attacks or chest discomfort due to plaque buildup, the obstruction is treated with metallic stents. Although this technology has been greatly improved in the past years, potential issues related to the permanent coronary implant may require additional procedures even many years after the initial operation.

Absorb GT1 BVS is made of naturally resorbable material that slowly disappears in about three years, leaving behind a restored vessel, free of a permanent implant. Metallic stents permanently restrict vessel movement, limiting future treatment options. Unrestricted vessels with restored function have the potential to flex, pulse and dilate in response to various demands on the heart, based on people’s lifestyle and activities, and allow for potential treatment options down the road. Similar to current generation drug-eluting stents, the BVS is coated with a drug that prevents the re-narrowing of the vessel over time.

The procedure is similar to regular coronary stenting intervention, which is performed by accessing the artery in the groin or wrist, and threading catheters to the coronary arteries. The blockage is first opened with an angioplasty balloon, followed by balloon-expandable scaffold implantation. While complex and hardened blockages are better served by regular metallic stents at this stage of the technology, the BVS could be beneficial for younger patients with their first CAD presentation, Dr. Toma noted.

UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside is one of the few centers in the U.S. with experience in implanting the scaffolds. The hospital participated in the ABSORB III trial, which led to the recent FDA approval of the device, as well as the ABSORB IV trial, which compares the BVS to the top-performing current metallic stent technology. 

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute is one of the world’s premier centers for comprehensive care, developing revolutionary devices and new models of treatment that improve the lives of those facing the most complex heart and vascular conditions.

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