Web Producer: Brad Maglinger
Joan Welch has a key to the city and her picture with the former mayor. All because she retired as Evansville's first and longest working meter maid. She did it back before they had carts and had to walk everywhere.
But the 69-year-old doesn't do much walking these days, because two years ago she had a heart attack. To restore blood flow, she had a balloon angioplasty to squeeze back the plaque in her artery walls. Then, a wire coil called a stent was inserted to prop open the vessel. It worked, but not for long. "In February, I had to go back and get another stent put in and then in July, I had another stent put in," said Welch.
Cardiologist Dr. Philip Casino says reblockages of plaque or new scar tissue happen to about 30 percent of these patients. Now, with a new type of stent, fewer than five percent need to go back to the cath lab. The new, coated cypher stents help prevent arteries from becoming clogged again, what doctors call restenosis.
"The new stents are coated by a polymer. The polymer contains the medication that over a gradual period of time is released into the blood vessel wall to prevent the development of restenosis," explained Dr. Casino.
But not everyone benefits from the cypher stent. They're best suited for patients with diabetes. "Patients who have lesions that are long, patients with blockages in their left anterior descending artery and those who are not candidates for other types of procedures," Dr. Casino said.
Joan's stent wasn't a candidate for open heart surgery, so the cypher stent was pretty much her only hope. "I think this is going to work," said Welch. "I got a lot more energy and I can breathe pretty good."
Dr. Casino emphasized that while these new stents give heart patients new hope, they're no substitute for healthy eating and exercise.