JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States.
For years, doctors have used metal stents to repair clogged arteries in the heart, but now, they're testing out a groundbreaking technology on patients right here in Jacksonville.
Seven patients in Jacksonville have already been enrolled in this nationwide study. It's an Abbott Vascular's Bioabsorbable stent called "absorb". Unlike the traditional metal stents that stay in the body forever, this one disappears within a year or two.
Charles Farr is an avid cyclist and runner. After the Gate River Run this year though, he noticed some shortness of breath.
"When I would go out for a run I would feel some right sided chest pain. It was very atypical, radiated down to my right hands and to the left side," said Farr.
Reffered to Doctor Marc Litt at Baptist Medical Center, Farr soon found out he needed a stent to open up a clogged artery in his heart. He became the first patient in Jacksonville to be enrolled in the Bioabsorbable Stent study.
Dr. Litt said metal stents run the risk of reclogging when plaque builds up inside the artery. This absorbable stent has the potential to leave the artery permanently unclogged, with no proof it was ever there.
"By allowing the artery to get rid of the stent or to dissolve, the artery may actually improve and return to a normal state… It's almost like a repair of the vessel that we hope is permanent so the vessel itself will have a natural repair as opposed to a constant steel metal base to keep it open," said Dr. Litt.
Cardiologists at UF Health Jacksonville and St. Vincent's are also getting ready to sign patients up.
Doctor Samer Garas is the lead investigator at St. Vincent's. He's looking forward to another benefit to this new procedure.
"One of the things we have to use is blood thinners for a number of months and we don't know what happens in two years or three years, but knowing that that stent is gone, that gives you the peace of mind that patients can come off of blood thinners they can have surgeries if they need to," said Dr. Garas.
Six weeks after Charles Farr decided to be Jacksonville's guinea pig, he's recovering well and is looking forward to seeing its long term success.
"My exercise tolerance it back where it was. I went on a bicycle trip two weeks ago to Montana and we rode mountain bikes for 250 miles and I had no pain we were up 700 feet… no shortness of breath," said Farr.
This is a blind trial, so none of the patients who agree to it including farr, know whether or not they actually have the absorbable stent or a metal stent.
Only the doctors know and they're comparing the durability and effectiveness.
Farr is a retired physician himself and says when he was asked about doing it, he did research for about four to five hours and then chose to try it out because of its success in Europe.
It's already been used in patients there for about five years. The FDA will make a decision on its use in the US within the next two years.