Medicated Stents: A True Revolution In Heart Care

Ed Jones
Ed Jones
Dr. Juk
Dr. Juk

Ed Jones knew something was wrong when the cold weather went away, but the pain in his chest didn't.

An avid walker for years, Jones first experienced a funny feeling in his chest while he was out on his morning walk near his home in Elgin.

"I push myself pretty hard when I exercise," says Ed, "and I had walked about three miles when I felt a tingling sensation and pain in my chest. I thought it was because it was a cool morning, and I was breathing in all that cool air."

But then the same thing happened a couple of days later, and the weather that day was really hot. "I knew then it was my heart, and I thought my walking days were over."

Unfortunately, Ed had two blocked coronary arteries. Fortunately, he was treated at Providence Heart Institute by cardiologist Dr. Stanley Juk of Columbia Cardiology Consultants.

Today, thanks to Dr. Juk, Providence, and a revolutionary new device called a drug-eluting stent, Ed is walking again.

Stents are tiny wire-mesh devices that cardiologists have been implanting in heart patients' arteries for more than a decade. They, in effect, prop open the arteries to allow blood to flow through.

In many cases, however, new blockage forms around the stent several months later – a process called restenosis. This means the patient has to have another stent or undergo open heart surgery.

However, the new drug-eluting stents have dramatically reduced the number of patients who experience restenosis. "The Achilles heel of implanting stents has always been that one out of three, one out of four, or one out of five might heal back closed," says Dr. Juk. "But the new drug-eluting stents have a polymer coating, and inside that polymer is a drug that gradually comes out over a period of about three or four weeks.

"In most cases the medicated stent prevents the growth of new tissue, and the restenosis rate is down to about one out of 10. That's a substantial reduction in the number of people who have to come back to have another stent put in."

Luckily for Ed Jones, Providence was the first hospital in the state to use the new drug-eluting stents. And, as Dr. Juk explains, the revolutionary new device is truly a medical breakthrough, not merely a product improvement.

"These stents are something that have the potential to keep a significant number of people from having to have open heart surgery," he says. "One of the things that has always hindered the number of patients who would be candidates for a stent has been the potential restenosis issue. But now that this issue has been minimized, it may open up a lot more people who can have a stent instead of having to undergo bypass surgery."

Stents also work particularly well in smaller blood vessels, which means they offer new hope to women and diabetics, who have always been problematic in terms of traditional stent technology.

"That's one of the reasons it's such an exciting time for those of us in the field of cardiology," he says. "One the giants of our profession, the chief of cardiology at Harvard, said at a conference that we've learned more about cardiovascular biology in the past 10 years than we have in the past 25.

"And if you interpolate that, we've learned more in the past 10 years than we have in the whole of recorded history."