Doug Taylor, a Scottsdale resident, tried for years to outrun his genetics. He almost succeeded.
The retired psychotherapist, 73, remembers all too well when his father died at age 63 after four heart attacks. In his 30s at the time, Doug said he took up running "to do something for my insides." In his 40s, he upped the competition by tackling the occasional 100-mile run.
In June, he learned that heart disease had indeed targeted him. Over the last five years, it had been causing the chest pain, nausea and vomiting he frequently experienced — despite his passion for running and his commitment to never smoke.
After a diagnostic cardiac catheterization procedure at HonorHealth Scottsdale Shea Medical Center, the current owner of a wealth management company discovered he had a 90 percent blockage in one artery, 80 percent in another, and 10 percent in a third.
"Man, I'm really good at denial," he admitted. "I thought I was immune to heart disease. I was not."
During the procedure, David Rizik, MD, an interventional cardiologist at the hospital, inserted a metal stent in the coronary artery that was 90 percent blocked. "The pain was gone as soon as the artery was opened," Doug said.
Benefits of game-changing stent
The next day, Dr. Rizik offered him the opportunity to soon become the first patient in the U.S. to receive an FDA-approved heart stent in the artery that was 80 percent blocked. The revolutionary Abbott Absorb stent starts dissolving within five to six months and almost disappears within two to three years.
Dr. Rizik and other HonorHealth colleagues have spent the last 10 years studying the device. He was principal investigator for a clinical trial at the HonorHealth Research Institute and participated in two other clinical studies there, implanting more than 100 of the fully dissolving heart stents. "It's already being used successfully in Europe and Asia," Dr. Rizik noted.
The game-changing stent benefits the patient by:
- Emitting a drug over the first three months to prevent the coronary artery from closing and scar tissue from forming.
- Allowing the artery to act like a normal vessel, expanding with exercise or exertion.
- Reducing the need for blood thinners. Some individuals may even be able to discontinue them eventually.
- Allowing coronary bypass surgery of the artery if required in the future. This may not be possible in some cases with a metal stent.
- Allowing a CT scan of the heart, something not possible with a metal stent because it distorts the image.
- Preventing chronic inflammation that can accompany metal stents.
"I did the research, and it sounded like a damn good thing," Doug said before the procedure. "I know I wouldn't have gotten any better care at the Mayo Clinic or Johns Hopkins or the Cleveland Clinic. I want the freedom to run again, and this stent dissolves. It lets my artery expand. Dr. Rizik made it clear that he'll keep an eye on me over the next year. I've controlled what I can control, and now it's up to him."
Poster child for the stent
On July 6, 2016, a day after FDA approval of the stent, Dr. Rizik performed the minimally invasive procedure in approximately one hour in the HonorHealth Scottsdale Shea Medical Center cath lab.
"Doug's the poster child for this game-changing stent because the blocked blood vessel is an important one at the front of the heart," Dr. Rizik said. "Next to it is a branch of the artery, and a metal stent would jail it. The fully dissolving stent won't incarcerate it." Instead, the branch soon will be able to contribute to the heart's circulation of blood and oxygen."
Robert Burke, MD, a cardiologist and fellow HonorHealth researcher, agreed that Doug was a great candidate for the new stent. "As a marathon runner, he's active and robust. He has the potential for many years of life ahead of him. His blocked artery at the front of the heart is in an area where revascularization is optimal. The Abbott Absorb stent will help with that."
Doug's grateful for the opportunity to make medical history and that "all went well. But more than anything," he said, "I want the freedom to run."
"Our goal always is to return patients to their families and lifestyles and work," said Dr. Rizik." I have no doubt Doug will be running marathons again."
No. 1 killer in U.S.
Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease, the leading cause of death for both men and women in this country.
- Is the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S., killing over 370,000 people each year.
- Accounts for one of every seven deaths in the U.S.
- Claims more lives than all forms of cancer combined.
Patients with coronary artery disease can experience symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath when the demand for blood to the heart is more than the heart's ability to supply blood due to blockages in the coronary arteries. The blockages are caused by the buildup of fat and cholesterol inside the vessel.