The absorbable stent was approved by the FDA in July. (Photo courtesy of Abrazo Community Health Network)

Abrazo Community Health Network is expanding its cardiovascular care by offering a new absorbable heart stent procedure at its Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital.

The heart stent works in a similar fashion to dissolvable sutures to treat coronary artery disease, which affects approximately 15 million Americans.

Dr. Nirav Mehta, an interventional cardiologist at Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital, performed the procedure to implant the new absorbable stents in four Valley residents on Oct. 13.

In addition to the Heart Hospital, the procedure also will be available at Abrazo Arrowhead Campus beginning later this month and at Abrazo West Campus in November.

Stents made of metal have been the standard of care for treating clogged arteries. “However, science is taking us in a new direction, with a breakthrough that will enable patients to live a better and healthier life,” Mehta said.

The absorbable stent is made of a naturally dissolving material, similar to dissolving sutures. The absorbable stent disappears completely in about three years, after it has done its job of keeping a clogged artery open and promoting healing of the treated artery. The only sign of the stent is two pairs of tiny metallic markers that remain in the artery to enable a physician to see where the device was placed.

Without metal stents, the treated artery can pulse and flex naturally, as demands on the heart change with everyday activities, Mehta said. No metal also may reduce the potential of future blockages that occur with permanent metallic stents, and could allow easier access for other treatment options should they be needed, he added.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the absorbable stent in July 2016 after clinical trials studies around the world demonstrated comparable short-term and mid-term outcomes to the leading metallic stent. Today, the absorbable stent is available in more than 100 countries and has been used to treat more than 150,000 people with coronary artery disease worldwide.

The absorbable stent procedure is among Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital’s expanded services and part of the hospital’s bigger plan to continue its legacy of excellence in cardiovascular care in Arizona, across the Southwest and throughout the nation. The hospital has established six specialty cardiac and vascular institutes, including an Institute for Coronary Artery Disease. In addition, the hospital has expanded its services and become a training ground for cardiologists nationwide.

In addition to the Heart Hospital, the procedure also will be available at Abrazo Arrowhead Campus beginning later this month.

“We are on the cusp of many advances in cardiovascular care,” Mehta said. “Our goal is not only to uncover new treatments, but also ways to prevent heart disease altogether.”