Hospital receives new stent technology

Hannah Grover
Dr. Sudhakar Girotra explains how Synergy stents work on Thursday in the Cardiac Cath Lab at San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington.

FARMINGTON — In an area where heart disease is the second-most common cause of death, finding ways to prevent heart attacks is one of the focuses of the San Juan Regional Medical Center's cardiology program.

New stent technology is the hospital's latest weapon against heart attacks. Stents are tubular mesh devices inserted across narrowed arteries to open them and allow better blood flow.

The new stents, known as Synergy stents, were approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration on Oct. 5. Within days of the technology being released, the hospital had patients lined up to receive them, said Dr. Sudhakar Girotra, a cardiologist at San Juan Regional Medical Center.

Laura Werbner, a spokeswoman for the hospital, said the first Synergy stents arrived at the medical center about two weeks after the FDA approved them.

Since then, the hospital has used 25 Synergy stents, and Girotra said he expects San Juan Regional Medical Center to convert to mainly using Synergy stents within the next few months.

The stent is placed in the artery, and a balloon attached to the stent expands, opening blockages in the artery.

The technology is not new and has been modified many times over the years, but the Synergy stent is a large step forward, Girotra said.

Dr. Sudhakar Girotra displays a Synergy stent on Thursday in the Cardiac Cath Lab at San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington.

Stents started as bare metal, but that caused problems with the arterial wall lining thickening over the stent until another blockage formed, he explained. That led to the creation of a stent that incorporated a polymer and was coated in a drug that helps prevent blockages from reforming.

But even those models were not as advanced as the Synergy stents are. The surface of the Synergy stent that faces the arterial walls is coated with the drug, but the interior surface that faces the blood has no drug on it. Girotra said that positioning of the drugs on the stent helps speed up the healing process.

In the past, the polymers used in stents created concerns about long-term exposure and the potential for inflammation. That led to the creation of the Synergy stent, which includes a polymer that dissolves in the body. Within a few months, the polymer and the drug on the stent should no longer be detectable in the patient’s body.

“It mixes up the benefits of a drug-coated stent and a bare metal stent,” Girotra said.

The San Juan Regional Medical Center is one of the first in the western United States to use the Synergy stent, Girotra said.

“Not many hospitals have acted so fast on the technology,” Girotra said.

The Synergy stent could decrease the amount of time that patients have to take blood-thinning drugs, which will help patients who have high risk of bleeding, such as people with renal or kidney failure.

It also helps in an area where people don’t have easy access to health care, Girotra said. He said many patients at the hospital stop taking their medication, and the Synergy stent is a safer option for patients who may not continue their medication for the full year required after stents are installed.

Dr. Sudhakar Girotra shows off a Synergy stent on Thursday in the Cardiac Cath Lab at San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington.

Girotra explained that patients who receive stents are placed on a blood thinner for a year because the exposed stent struts can cause clotting, clogging the artery. Even with the Synergy stent, the patients should take the blood thinner for the full year, but it makes it safer for those who do not, he said.

“If I had to stop therapy, I’d be more comfortable with this type of stent,” Girotra said.

While the Synergy stent is a step forward in stent technology, Girotra foresees additional developments, including a stent that will dissolve within the human body. He said that technology is being developed now.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.