FEATURE | Posted Sept. 7, 2016

New stent, new life

UC Davis patient is the first in Northern California to receive a dissolving stent

Raymond Menchaca at UC Davis Medical Center
Raymond Menchaca is the first patient in Northern California to receive the new bioresorbable stent.

Raymond Menchaca regularly checks his blood pressure. As a diabetic, he knows that high blood pressure can complicate his condition, which he has managed for over 20 years. On July 14, his numbers were much higher than usual. He knew he needed to get to a hospital.

“I’ve had high readings before, but this was different,” Menchaca said. “There was some pressure in my chest and I was having trouble breathing.”

An angiogram at the VA Northern California Healthcare System, where the 54-year-old former marine gets his medical care, showed an artery on the left side of his heart was 99 percent blocked. Menchaca was referred to interventional cardiology at UC Davis, where physician Jeffrey Southard explained that he was a good candidate for a new stent called the Absorb vascular scaffold.

Absorb works like a traditional metal stent in opening vessels clogged by fatty deposits. Instead of remaining in the vessel for a lifetime, however, it is made of material similar to dissolving sutures and disappears within three years.

UC Davis cardiologists Jeffrey Southard and Reginald Low
UC Davis cardiologists are leaders in percutaneous coronary interventions

Menchaca was the first patient in California north of Los Angeles — and one of the first in the nation — to be treated with Absorb following its approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for commercial use.

“Mr. Menchaca has many years to live and the benefits of not having a metal stent in his heart the rest of his life are fantastic,” Southard said. “Any future therapies or surgeries he may need are not hindered by a bioresorbable scaffold.”

Characteristics of Menchaca’s diseased vessel also made him a good candidate for Absorb. For instance, his blockage was not calcified and it was in a larger artery.

“Perfect for this type of scaffold,” Southard said.

Cardiovascular medicine specialists and subspecialists at UC Davis are passionate about providing the highest level of care to patients with heart and blood-vessel disease. The team is led by Reginald Low, a nationally recognized expert on minimally invasive methods to diagnose and treat coronary artery disease. In addition to being exceptional clinicians, UC Davis cardiologists are leaders in developing and testing the next generation of cardiac and vascular therapies, technologies and procedures, and then making them available to patients worldwide. For more information, visit www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/heart/

For more information on CAD, visit the National Institutes of Health website.

Stents are lifesaving treatments for patients like Menchaca with coronary artery disease (CAD), a condition that affects 15 million people in the U.S. and a leading cause of heart attack and stroke. They are often used to help vessels remain open following balloon angioplasty to compress the blockage. All stents are delivered to the site of a blockage percutaneously, or through vessels using catheters. The most commonly used options are bare metal or metal combined with medication (drug-eluting) to support vascular healing.

Absorb — the only fully dissolving heart stent — is the newest treatment innovation for people living with CAD.

“Having more stent options for patients is always better,” Southard said. “The challenge is knowing which one is best for which patient.”

Menchaca spent one night in the hospital following his procedure and returned to work as a bookkeeper at Stanford Settlement the next week.

Today, he is less concerned about his new stent than the reasons why he needed it in the first place. He is working closely with his VA care team to improve his health, which includes walking more and making better choices when it comes to food.

“I didn’t take good care of myself,” Menchaca said. “I ate too much junk and didn’t take my diabetes seriously. I am now paying much closer attention to health.”

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