Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

October 6, 2013

ED VASICEK: Stents and hardware

Doctors implant screws, springs, stents

Kokomo Tribune

---- — As the massive gener-ation of baby boomers age, stents are all the rage (I’m a poet and didn’t know it).

That bad cholesterol — if not held at bay by enough good cholesterol — can cause our arteries to plug up with plaque. Plugged arteries can result in heart attacks or strokes.

Stents are the preferred way to open the congested area. Stents typically displace the invasive, older (but still sometimes necessary) bypass surgery. Since it is almost certain that you or someone close to you will one day need a stent, it is good to understand some basics.

A few years back, doctors began using a balloon technique to force the artery to open up, but more times than not, the artery closed again once the balloon was removed. Then they got the idea to open up the artery with a balloon and insert a spring-like device to keep it open. This device is called a “stent.”

This past week, one friend of mine was undergoing a catheterization. During a catheterization, a surgeon runs a camera through your arteries and into your heart to see if you need one or more stents.

As I was visiting with this friend, after reading Scripture and offering prayer, I mentioned how I flinched every time I heard someone say “stint” instead of “stent.” I repeated my quotable to help keep things clear: “I was in the hospital for a stint to get a stent; it was quite a stunt.”

Meanwhile that same week, I heard about another friend (about my age) who has moved to Michigan; he had experienced two heart attacks before he finally went to the hospital. He had a stent procedure after the fact to prevent more attacks. Avid readers of this column might recall I received a stent in late 2006, and what a difference it has made! Yet I was particularly fortunate to get the stent before a heart attack.

Back in late 2006, doctors decided to use a standard stent because they were discovering some drawbacks to “medicated” stents. I believe those issues have since been resolved. Soon a third option could be available: a plastic stent. Futurist Len Rosenberg writes about this dissolving plastic stent called Absorb:

“... Absorb is the first stent to be made from plastic. And not just any plastic but a bioresorbable one that dissolves after six months. For the body’s immune system and for healing purposes this becomes an ideal tool for use in treating coronary artery disease. With Absorb dissolving over time the natural blood vessel can function normally.

“Absorb has undergone a three-year clinical trial and this summer the results were presented to the American College of Cardiology at its 62nd annual convention. In 45 of 101 patients Absorb showed improvements in blood vessel movement and function. They also showed reductions in plaque buildup in areas where the stent was placed. With metal stents blood vessel movement and function can be impaired. And plaque buildup can occur where metal stents are implanted leading to the need for additional procedures to clear the blockages.”

I visited another friend who had back surgery and left the hospital with screws and spacers in place. I asked him if they used self-syncing drywall screws. We laughed, but I wonder how close to the truth my tease was?

The more medicine advances, the more it sounds like our surgeons did their internships in the neighborhood hardware store. Screws, springs, spacers. Yep, sounds like hardware to me. Wonder if they have tried Liquid Plumber for plugged arteries?

Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at edvasicek@gmail.com.