SUNDAY, March 30, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Drug-eluting stents, the small tubing placed in diseased coronary arteries to keep them open, are more effective than bare-metal stents for heart attack patients, new research shows.
In the largest study yet comparing the long-term effect of drug-eluting stents -- the drug in question retards the growth of arterial cells -- with drug-free ones, Boston researchers report the drug-eluting device lowers the risk of blood vessels narrowing again and doesn't heighten the risk of mortality.
In analyzing data from 7,216 Massachusetts patients who had stents implanted after having suffered a heart attack known as a myocardial infarction (MI), the researchers concluded that those patients who had drug-eluting stents had a 5 percent better chance of the diseased artery remaining open.
Additionally, they found, those who had an MI and got drug-eluting stents were 1.5 percent less likely than patients with bare-metal stents to have another heart attack in the two-year period that was studied. Mortality was 2.8 percent less likely in patients with drug-eluting stents, the researchers said.
The findings follow earlier smaller studies this year that showed the drug-eluting stents may be safe for MI patients but questioned their long-term effectiveness.
The new research was to be presented Sunday at a joint meeting of the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (SCAI) and the American College of Cardiology in Chicago.
"This study confirms that the same benefits that drug-eluting stents offer other patients in preventing restenosis [re-narrowing] of the coronary arteries are still there for patients with MI, and there doesn't appear to be any trade-off in increased risk of repeat MI or death," Dr. Laura Mauri, the study's lead researcher, said in a prepared statement.
"I would feel comfortable considering drug-eluting stents on the basis of these results -- with the caveats that treated patients must be able to take antiplatelet therapy and that we definitely want to see even longer-term follow-up," added Mauri, who is chief scientific officer at the Harvard Clinical Research Institute, as well as a Brigham and Womens Hospital cardiologist and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
The U.S. government has more information on how stenting works.