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Experts Offer Clarity on Confusion Surrounding Stents
Date:2/22/2008

Amid flurry of studies, certain advice emerging for heart patients,,,,

FRIDAY, Feb. 22 (HealthDay News) -- To stent or not to stent? Which type of the artery-opening device is best? When is heart bypass surgery smarter than getting a stent?

These are the questions many heart patients are left asking themselves and their doctors, as dozens of recent high-profile -- and often conflicting -- studies have compared the performance and safety of various types of coronary stents.

But experts say a consensus on the safest and most effective use of the devices is slowly emerging.

For the majority of patients undergoing angioplasty to clear a blocked artery, newer, drug-coated stents are preferred over bare-metal ones, mainly because they reduce the risk of artery re-closure, cardiologists say.

And it may not matter which of the two established brands of drug-eluting stent you get -- Boston Scientific Corp.'s paclitaxel-coated Taxus or Cordis Corp.'s sirolimus-coated Cypher.

"The truth appears to be that whatever differences exist between these two drug-eluting stents are so small that there's not a compelling reason to select one over the other," said Dr. Kirk Garratt, clinical director of interventional cardiovascular research at Lenox Hill Hospital's Heart Vascular Institute, in New York City.

He said that in very special circumstances, a patient may be better suited for one type of drug-coated stent over another, "but for the average patient out there trying to make sense of this, he or she can be comfortable that whatever stent their doctor recommends is going to be a good choice."

The tiny mesh tubes known as coronary stents were first developed in the mid-1980s, and, within a decade, the insertion of bare-metal stents to prop open narrowed vessels had become standard procedure for many patients at risk of heart attack.

However, the rate of artery re-closure, known as
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