The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

November 23, 2010

Coronary stents less risky than surgery

— DANVILLE — Recognized as an invention that changed the world, coronary stents have become the preferred method for treating the narrowing of the heart’s arteries, with approximately 1 million of the devices implanted in patients annually across the globe.

“The use of stents has changed the face of coronary care over the past decade,” said Dr. James Blankenship,director of cardiology for Geisinger Medical Center and the Western Hub.

“Prior to their use, heart attack patients were routinely treated with clot-busting drugs that were often ineffective,” he said.

A stent is a small, mesh coil that is implanted permanently in the area of a clogged coronary artery to improve blood f low to the heart muscle, thereby reducing the risk of heart attack. Some stents are coated with medication to help prevent a blockage from recurring.

“Stents are placed during a procedure called an angioplasty.

An interventional cardiologist makes a small cut in a blood vessel in the leg, arm or wrist through which a catheter is threaded and the stent is implanted,” Dr. Blankenship said. “Stable patients can often go home the same day as the procedure.”

The advantage of a stent procedure, Dr. Blankenship said, is that it is less invasive and requires significantly less recovery time for the patient.

Recovery from open-heart surgery is typically four to six weeks, compared to a matter of days following a stent procedure.

The decision of whether to use a stent or opt for bypass surgery will depend on the extent of a patient’s heart disease and overall medical condition.

Pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, or multiple blockages may require bypass surgery, Dr. Blankenship said.

“After a patient recovers from any coronary procedure, be it stent or bypass, follow-up care often includes a regimen of medication, diet and exercise,” Dr. Blankenship said.

“Patients requiring any medical procedure should have an open dialogue with their doctor regarding the pros and cons of that procedure and what is best for the individual.”