Question: Is it true that drug-coated stents can cause heart attacks?
Answer: All stents, like any medical device or drug, have potential side effects or complications. And one particular complication to all stents in general is something called stent thrombosis, and that's a situation where a sudden blood clot can form inside the stent. Now, with all stents -- both bare metal or drug-eluting stents -- this occurs in approximately somewhere between one in 100 or one in 200 patients within the first 30 days.
With bare metal stents, that's rare occurrence after 30 days or after a year. With drug-coated stents, the stent itself, because it is so potent at inhibiting the tissue growth, may have a slightly higher likelihood of that complication occurring.
On the other hand, when patients re-develop narrowings of the arteries, while that's often a gradual re-narrowing from scar tissue, sometimes patients will actually present with a heart attack just from the narrowing. So when we look overall at the safety of the current drug-eluting stents versus bare metal stents, when we look at the likelihood of patients surviving or of not having heart attacks, it's very, very similar.
So the important things to know is that both stents can cause thrombus problems; they can both get blood clots. Both stents can have a blood clot associated with a heart attack or even a death, but this is a small complication, it's a low frequency event, it's a lower event than the underlying blockages in the arteries, of course, which brought the patient to the cardiologist in the first place, and overall, the risks of drug-coated stents and bare metal stents seem approximately equivalent.