N.C. – Feb. 17,
2017 – Thomas
Leroy Walls, of Independence, Virginia, noticed he became tired easily
during routine activities like climbing stairs. So, the retired masonry worker
went in for a stress test, but he passed out during the exam.
Doctors quickly diagnosed a clogged
artery and sent him to Wake Forest Baptist
Medical Center where he was the first patient in the area to get a new type
The device, called the Absorb GT1
Bioresorbable Vascular Scaffold System, was recently approved by the Food and Drug
Administration. It is the first fully absorbable stent for the treatment of
coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease.
Wake Forest Baptist is the first
hospital in the region to offer this groundbreaking treatment.
Coronary artery disease is caused by
the buildup of plaque that restricts the flow of blood to the heart, which can
cause chest pain, shortness of breath and other symptoms and lead to heart
attack and stroke. The condition is frequently treated with a procedure called
angioplasty, in which a doctor guides a tiny balloon to the site of blockage,
expands it to widen the narrowed artery and inserts a mesh coil called a stent
in the artery to hold it open. Many stents are coated with drugs that help keep
the artery from reclosing while it heals.
Most stents are made of metal and
remain in the body permanently, which can produce negative side effects in some
people. The Absorb scaffold, on the other hand, is gradually absorbed by the
body and completely dissolves after about three years. Made of a biodegradable
polymer, the device also releases a drug to limit the growth of scar tissue
that can block the artery.
“The lifetime benefit of a metal-free
coronary artery is better for some patients,” said David Zhao, M.D.,
chief of cardiovascular medicine and executive director of Wake Forest
Baptist’s Heart and Vascular Center.
Walls was able to go home the day
after he underwent the minimally invasive surgery to place the Absorb scaffold.
These days, the 64-year-old is watching his diet, spending time with his
grandchildren and enjoying an activity that he had to cut back on when he had
“I go to square dancing two to three
times a week now,” he said. “And I’m doing fine. No problems at all.”
Zhao, an interventional cardiologist
himself, said the new stent is an example of how advances in technology can
quickly benefit patients.
“Many of our patients are really
limited in terms of the quality of their lives because of their illness,” he
said. “They have heart failure. They have a valve disease. They are coming in
with a heart attack. The best part of our job is being able to help those
Wake Forest Baptist cardiologists participated in the Absorb clinical
trials leading up to FDA approval.
Developed and manufactured by Abbott,
a global health care company, the Absorb stent is currently available in more
than 100 countries and has been used to treat more than 150,000 people