Drug-coated stents implanted into clogged heart arteries are associated with a significantly lower risk of death than bare-metal versions, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic said on Monday.
Use of stents coated with drugs to prevent scar tissue from reclogging arteries cleared of plaque has fallen as much as 50 percent in recent years due to concerns the tiny wire-mesh tubes can cause blood clots long after they are implanted.
However, recent data have suggested drug-coated stents may be as safe as uncoated versions and may actually help lower the risk of heart attack or death.
Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic found a 38 percent reduction in the risk of death from all causes in patients who received drug-eluting stents.
"This study and the preponderance of the evidence support the notion that the overall risk of stent thrombosis (clots) with DES does not translate into higher mortality in these patients," the researchers concluded in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
The study looked at data from a registry of 8,036 patients who underwent stent procedures at the hospital between March 2003 and June 2007.
The rate of death during 4 1/2 years of follow-up was 8 percent for patients treated with drug-coated stents and 17 percent for those who received bare-metal stents.
Even when adjusted for factors such as socioeconomic status, cancer, renal failure and anemia, the link between drug-eluting stent treatment and lower mortality persisted, the researchers said.
While the reason for the decrease in mortality seen with drug-eluting stents is unknown, a reduction in heart attacks and death due to reclogging of the arteries may play a substantial role, the researchers said.
Patients implanted with drug-eluting stents also received anti-clotting drugs for longer periods of time, which could also explain the lower mortality rates, they said.
Johnson & Johnson and Boston Scientific Corp were the sole makers of drug-eluting stents for the United States until Medtronic Inc and Abbott Laboratories entered the market this year.