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Medicated Stents Could Prevent Scar Tissue, Repeated Blockage

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Nearly 11 million Americans have clogged arteries. Many of them need stents to help keep blood flowing.

For some, it is only a short-term solution.However, local research could help stents become a permanent fix.

Angioplasty is one of the most common procedures in heart centers. Doctors inflate a tiny balloon into a clogged artery and often implant a stent, or small metal tube, to keep it open. Nearly 500,000 people have the procedure each year.

However, it is not a guaranteed fix. In 20 percent of patients, scar tissue forms around the stent within four to six months.

"This scaring then narrows the artery and the patient comes back with recurring problems," said Dr. Tift Mann, a cardiologist at WakeMed.

As part of a clinical trial, WakeMed is testing medicated stents. The stents are coated with a drug that slows or prevents the growth of scar tissue.

Mann said early research is promising. So far, none of the patients involved in earlier studies have had repeat blockages.

If the medicated stents live up to expectations it would mean thousands of patients would not have to make a second or even a third trip back to the catheterization laboratory. It could also open the door for many patients who are not candidates for stents right now.

"Those are the ones we send to surgery," Mann said.

Mann hopes the medicated stents will be a long-term solution.

"We're excited, but it's still early in the game," he said.

Half of the 1,000 patients needed nationwide for the study have already been recruited.

Not every patient who needs a stent is a candidate for the clinical trial. It must be a newly diagnosed single blockage.

If research continues to show good results, the stents could get approval from theFood and Drug Administration by next year.