Mercy's Heart Experts Leading Way to Innovative Treatments

February 17, 2014



Absorb Dissolvable Stent and Watchman® Device


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in every four deaths in the United States can be blamed on heart disease. Prevention and the development of new treatments are key to the fight against failing hearts.


It’s why Mercy is helping patients with heart-related issues by participating in important clinical trials that will lead the way to new treatments. From dissolvable stents for patients with blocked arteries to stroke prevention for atrial fibrillation patients, studies across Mercy are making an impact in the future of medicine.


Doctors at Mercy Hospital Springfield are evaluating an innovative device to fight coronary artery disease, which is characterized by blockages of fat and cholesterol in the vessels that supply blood to the heart. Those blockages in the heart have been treated for decades with things like balloon angioplasty and metallic and drug eluting stents, which push the blockages out of the way and restore blood flow.


The latest innovation is a temporary device that eventually dissolves into the body. Absorb is an investigational device that is referred to as a bioresorbable vascular scaffold (BVS). It’s a small mesh tube made from polylactide, a material that’s commonly used things like dissolvable stitches.


“It’s called a scaffold because it’s truly temporary,” explained Dr. Robert Merritt, Mercy cardiologist and the site’s principal investigator in the trial. “It basically evaporates from the body. Since there isn’t a metal stent left behind, patients who need treatment in the future can get another stent. Right now, a patient with several metal stents in one area of an artery may have no choice but open heart surgery.”


Click here to learn more about the Absorb trial.


At Mercy Heart and Vascular Hospital in St. Louis, doctors are comparing the Watchman® Left Atrial Appendage Closure Device to long-term warfarin therapy for stroke prevention in atrial fibrillation patients as part of the PREVAIL clinical trial.


Patients with atrial fibrillation, the most common heart-rhythm disorder affecting more than 5 million people worldwide, are at an increased risk of stroke because blood can pool in the left atrium appendage (LAA) ultimately forming clots. The Watchman® Device is designed to keep harmful blood clots from entering the patient’s blood stream, causing a stroke.


Typically patients with A-Fib take blood thinning medications, such as warfarin, for life to prevent these clots from forming in the heart. These medications require frequent monitoring and have diet and other drug interactions causing compliance issues. The Watchman® device is the only left atrial appendage closure device shown to decrease strokes at least as effectively as blood thinners.


“This entire area has gained a lot of attention and created such an excitement because patients clearly need alternatives to blood thinners that decrease their stroke risk,” said Dr. J. Mauricio Sanchez, Mercy electrophysiologist, the site’s principal investigator and one of the authors of the PREVAIL trial.


Four year follow-up data from the PROTECT AF clinical trial demonstrated the Watchman® Device to be superior to warafin therapy in preventing cardiovascular death, all-cause stroke and systemic embolism for atrial fibrillation patients. Both PROTECT AF trial and PREVAIL trials have closed and the data is being evaluated for FDA approval. Enrollment continues in the CAP2 registry.


Mercy has participated in the PREVAIL trial and CAP2 from the beginning and has consistently been one of the leading enrollment sites in the US. Sixty patients at Mercy have had the Watchman® Device implanted.

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