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Blood Flow Measurement Boosts Stent Outcomes
Date:1/14/2009

Technology reduces deaths, complications, but may be too costly for some centers, experts say

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 14 (HealthDay News) -- A sophisticated measure of blood flow to determine where artery-opening stents should be implanted is more effective than the X-ray examinations now commonly used, an international study finds.

The technique, measuring what's known as "fractional flow reserve" (FFR), is designed for people who have multiple blockages that require artery-opening procedures such as angioplasty, followed by implantation of the flexible tubes called stents, explained study co-author Dr. Nico H. J. Pijls, professor of cardiology at the Catharina Hospital in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.

Such multiple blockages are seen in about 60 percent of cases, said Pijls, a leader in development of the flow-measuring technology.

The team published their findings in the Jan. 16 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The research was funded in part by Radi Medical Systems, which makes the FFR device tested in the trial.

The study, carried out in 20 European and U.S. medical centers, compared patient outcomes for stent implants using either FFR measurements or angiography (X-ray images) in 1,005 people who underwent artery-opening procedures.

Over a year of follow-up, 13.2 percent of those whose stents were implanted by the FFR method died, had major coronary events such as heart attacks or needed new procedures, compared to 18.3 percent of those in the X-ray group.

The cost of their treatment was lower, averaging $5,332 for the FFR cases against $6,007 for the angiography-guided group. The lower cost was due in part to the use of fewer stents in the FFR cases, an average of 1.9 versus 2.7 stents in the angiography group.

That's a real advantage, Pijls said, because, "you can do it in a more refined way. There are fewer complications, because instead of shooting for al
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