The Nation's Health + [Stents]

Stents: Do stents kill?

There's apparently a lively conversation going on at the HeartHawk Blog (www.hearthawk.blogspot.com). Among the hot topics raised was just how bad it is to have a stent.

I think that my comments some time back may have started this controversy. I've lately noticed that having a stent screws up your heart scan scoring in the vicinity of the stent . I was referring to the fact that I've now seen several people in the Track Your Plaque program do everything right and then show what I call "regional reversal": unstented arteries show dramatic drops in score of 18-30%, but the artery with a stent shows significant increase in score.

This is consistent with what we observe in the world outside Track Your Plaque when stents are inserted. Someone will get a stent, for instance, in the left anterior descending artery. A year later, there will be a "new" plaque at the mouth of the stent or just beyond the far end. This is generally treated by inserting another stent. Use of a drug-coated stent seems to have no effect on this issue.

Now, my smart friends in the Track Your Plaque program would immediately ask, "Does this mean you continually end up chasing these plaques that arise as a result of stents? Do you create an endless loop of procedures?"

Thankfully, the majority of times you do not. Rarely, this does happen and can lead to need for bypass surgery to circumvent the response. But it is unusual. The tissue that grows above and below stents does seem to be unusually impervious to the preventive efforts we institute.

Perhaps there's some new supplement, medication, or other strategy that will address this curious new brand of plaque growth. Until then, you and I can only take advantage of what is known. If it's any consolation, the plaque that seems to grow because of a previously inserted stent seems to lack the plaque "rupture" capacity of "naturally-occuring" plaque. It is, indeed, somehow different. It is more benign, less likely to cause heart attack. It's always been my feeling that this tissue behaves more like the "scar" tissue that grows within stents, causing "re-stenosis", a more benign, less rupture-prone kind of tissue.