A heart stent that dissolves completely over time and that represents the next major advance in coronary artery disease treatment will be implanted July 6 in the first U.S. patient at HonorHealth Scottsdale Shea Medical Center. The revolutionary device received approval from the U.S. Federal Drug Administration on July 5 after years of clinical research and trials.

Manufactured by Abbott Vascular, the stent is a small polymer tube that opens clogged arteries and helps restore blood flow to the heart. The stent dissolves completely in the body two to three years after implantation.

Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S., killing over 370,000 people each year.

“This is a game changer in coronary disease management,” said David G. Rizik, MD, an HonorHealth interventional cardiologist who was a principal investigator for the device during clinical trials at HonorHealth Research Institute. Rizik will perform the first FDA-approved implant in the United States. “It’s the next big advance.”

The new stent performs as well as or better than its predecessor, the drug-coated metal stent, but may have greater long term advantages for the patients.

“With the fully dissolving stent, we believe there will be less scarring or inflammation,” Rizik said. “The artery can return to a more natural state, expanding and contracting with exercise or exertion. A metal stent is permanent and restricts motion by caging the vessel, giving it no opportunity to grow or enlarge.”

Rizik noted that the fully dissolving stent is a desirable option for patients who prefer not to have a permanent metal implant in their body for the rest of their lives.

The fully dissolving stent is made of a material commonly used in such medical implants as dissolvable sutures and dissolvable bone screws. The stent is coated with a medication that reduces inflammation and tissue growth to help prevent further blockage of the artery.

HonorHealth cardiac researchers spent the last 10 years working with the manufacturer to bring this technology to market, performing clinical trials and publishing numerous scientific papers that eventually led to FDA approval. Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease, the leading cause of death for both men and women in this country.