What is a bioabsorbable stent?

Stents are tiny, metal mesh tubes that are implanted in arteries to prevent them from collapsing after a blockage has been removed. These stents currently are manufactured in two varieties: bare metal stents (BMS) and drug-eluting stents (DES). Metal stents have helped save or improve countless lives, but there are some drawbacks to the use of metal as the base material for both types of stents.

The benefits of metal stents far outweigh the drawbacks, but researchers are always looking for more effective innovations. Metal stents are permanent and could hinder later grafting or bypass procedures involving the arteries.

The future direction of stent technology may be bioabsorbable stents. These stents give the artery wall time to heal and strengthen, and then they biodegrade (break down) in the body, much like dissolvable sutures (stitches). Because these stents are slowly metabolized and break down, they may eliminate a late stent thrombosis – a rare but potentially serious complication of drug-eluting stents where a blood clot forms on the stent. Early data on bioabsorbable stents are promising, but more research is needed. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved the bioabsorbable stents for use.

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