Absorbable stents change how Midstate doctors see heart attack response

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – It’s a leading cause of heart attacks, and now doctors in the Midstate are re-thinking how to deal with coronary artery disease.

A local hospital chain is the first in the state to use a new kind of device to address artery blockages that lead to hospital stays.

As fall swirled outside, inside the Capitol, Ty McCauslin, who works for several state lawmakers, thought back to summer.

“It was the night we actually finished up the state budget,” he remembered.

That’s enough to give any state employee heart problems.

He drove himself to the hospital that night.

“It didn’t really dawn on me that I was having a heart attack,” he said.

It did dawn on doctors at PinnacleHealth’s Community General Osteopathic Hospital. Doctors there sent him by ambulance to Harrisburg Hospital downtown to get treatment at their cath lab.

There, heart specialists like Dr. Bill Bachisnky saw an artery restricted by plaque in two places, limiting blood flow.

For close to the last three decades, that would have meant doctors would implant a metal mesh stent into the affected area to keep the artery open. But a new technology is letting them rethink how they reopen blood flow.

“When you break your arm, you get a cast. You have a cast, it’s removed in six to eight weeks,” Bachisnky said.

That’s the general idea behind the ABSORB stent, made by the health company Abbott.

Like other stents, it’s inserted into the artery and expanded using a balloon to push it to the walls to help open up blood flow. Unlike other stents, the artery absorbs this one over time.

“After three years the device is completely dissolved,” the company says in an explanatory animation.

McCauslin was the first in the state to get one post-FDA approval. The agency gave the device the green light a week before McCauslin came in.

“It’s a game-changer,” Bachisnky said.

Years-long trials, including at PinnacleHealth’s cath lab, show it lets arteries heal and function more normally and may help prevent some of the rare — but dangerous — re-clogging that happens with other stents.

“That’s pretty amazing that that was like right around the corner when I needed it,” McCauslin said.

It means more fall days — and more summer budgets — to come.

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