Houston patient receives dissolvable heart stent

Nearly 600,000 metal stents are inserted into patients In the US each year. That metal usually remains in the patient until they die.

But now, a new kind of stent is being implanted that doesn't run the risk of tearing an artery or other complications. It's a stent that literally dissolves over time.

"You know regular day, ran a few calls, didn't feel anything, didn't feel like I was having a heart attack", says Steve Burrell. Burrell is a senior police officer for the city of Houston. He was on the clock when he first started noticing problems. A supervisor called him an ambulance, he arrived at the ER at Memorial Hermann downtown. After a few tests and an increasing amount of pain, doctors confirmed Burrell suffered a mild heart attack.

"At that point it actually did become painful I felt like pain throughout my upper chest, not a sharp stabbing pain it was just a dull ache", says Burrell.

Doctors told him they needed to do something immediately to improve blood flow to his heart, they opted to implant a stent. Burrell was a candidate for a new kind of heart stent, instead of metal his was dissolvable, called Absorb.

Dr. Parkash Balan inserted a catheter into Burrell's wrist and thread it up and into his heart. The stent is made of a biodegradable plastic-like substance.

“It basically degenerates into lactic acid which is a natural byproduct of our bodies metabolism and ends up being released as nothing more than carbon dioxide and water", says Dr. Balan.

The stent dissolves over a three year period as heart function hopefully improves. "The opportunity to have something that is not permanent is a wonderful option because it allows the natural tissue of the vessel to regain its function over time", says Dr. Balan.

Burrell was only the second of two patient to have this FDA approved procedure done at UT Health and Memorial Hermann Heart Vascular Institute. With a family history of heart related illnesses he says he in grateful for constantly changing technology.

"I like that I'm not going to have some sort of a permanent apparatus in my body”, says Burrell.