Santa gets gift of new heart stent

April 13, 2016 | by Mark Goodwin, M.D.
Categories: Healthy Driven Hearts

For 68-year-old Floyd King, a professional Santa living in Alpena, MI, the last few years have been tough. Not only did his coronary arteries keep getting blocked, causing chest pain and weakness, he also suffered from a painful neck condition.

His orthopedic surgeon in Michigan recommended spinal fusion surgery to address the neck problem. He told King his best chance of safely undergoing the surgery was to first get effective treatment for his cardiovascular problem, chronic total occlusion (CTO). CTO happens when a coronary artery has been blocked for a long period of time and is difficult to open and keep open.

King already had undergone eight cardiac catheterizations, resulting in placement of several stents — devices designed to prop open the arteries where they'd been blocked. But on several occasions, doctors had difficulty getting through King's highly calcified arteries. 

King needed to find a hospital with the latest equipment and a team experienced in treating CTO. His doctor recommended he look into treatment at Edward Hospital.

At that point, King says, "I had been having chest pains for two years. (Eventually) I couldn't even shovel the smallest amount of snow, or walk 50 feet without stopping. "

In November 2015, King’s doctors at Edward, including interventional cardiologist Tony DeMartini, M.D., worked to clear two of his blocked arteries using laser atherectomy and angioplasty. They also used the newly FDA-approved SYNERGY Bioabsorbable Polymer Drug-Eluting Stent System.

The SYNERGY stent is the first stent in which both the drug coating and the polymer (which controls the drug's release) are fully absorbed by the body within months.

The only stents that had been available were either bare metal, which sometimes irritates the blood vessel, or metal stents coated with a drug to help prevent recurring blockages. However, some patients who receive the drug-eluting stents are slow to heal and require long-term blood thinners.

The SYNERGY stent lessens the risk of these complications according to its manufacturer, Boston Scientific, by “(avoiding) the permanent polymer exposure, which has been associated with complications such as vessel re-narrowing and blood clots."

Patients with CTO typically are on two blood thinners for six to nine months after their procedure. With this stent, it's often safer to stop these drugs sooner. And, cutting back on blood thinners helps make subsequent surgeries safer.

King is now back to hunting, shoveling snow and basically doing what he wants to do, including gearing up for Santa's busiest season, come December.

Find out if you’re at risk for heart disease. Take a free five-minute test that could save your life.

Learn more about heart care at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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