Dissolving heart stent trialled

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Media captionProfessor Tony Gershlick explains how the new biodegradable heart scaffold works

A man from Leicester has become the first UK heart patient to have a new type of biodegradable stent to treat his condition.

About 85,000 people a year in Britain have a metal stent - a tubular scaffold - inserted in their diseased arteries.

These hold open the narrowed artery while releasing drugs to prevent clogging.

The new device does the same, but will eventually dissolve after about two years when the artery is repaired.

Metal stents, in comparison, typically remain in place unless removed surgically.

Stenting is now a far more common procedure for angina than bypass graft surgery.

Stents are inserted into the artery following balloon angioplasty.

UK first

Shabbir Makda who's 52, is the first patient in Britain to be enrolled in an international trial of a the new scaffold derived from corn starch rather than metal.

After about a year, when the artery is repaired, the stent begins to dissolve, turning into carbon dioxide and water.

The procedure was carried out by Professor Tony Gershlick a cardiologist at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester. He said: "This is undoubtedly an exciting evolution.

"We can't state too much at this stage because clinical trials are ongoing but I think we may look back on this as a key moment in the way we manage patients with coronary artery disease."

The patient, Shabbir Makda, is a bus driver in Leicester. He used to get regular chest pains when he was at work and now hopes that will be a thing of the past.

"It's exciting to be the first patient to get this device.

"I'm looking forward to getting back to work in a couple of weeks. I plan to lead a healthier life and go jogging."

The biodegradable scaffold is manufactured by Abbott and is being trialled in several European countries as well as Australia and New Zealand.

The first patient to be fitted with the device was in Auckland four years ago. Abbott says data from the trial, called ABSORB, had been very promising.

In a previous research project a few British patients were fitted with magnesium stents which also dissolved over time.

But this biodegradable stent also releases drugs to prevent the artery narrowing - one of the potential problems associated with this procedure.

The British Heart Foundation said it would take up to five years of clinical trials before it will be known whether biodegradable stents offer any real advantage over metal ones.

Professor Peter Weissberg, a cardiologist and medical director at the BHF, described the advent of biodegradable stents as "a laudable and appropriate move in the right direction".

But he said he was certain these would be more expensive than conventional stents there would be a question as to whether any benefits outweighed the additional costs.

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