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Vanishing Devices: Doctors implant disappearing stents, heart patches

Novel heart devices fashioned primarily from materials that the body can absorb or break down have made their debut in patients.

This week, cardiologists presented the first clinical studies of two such devices at a conference on cardiovascular therapies in Washington, D.C. The body absorbs most of one novel implant, a patch that can fix heart defects, and it degrades the other, a stent that can prop open a narrowed artery.

The vanishing implants offer potential advantages over permanent materials, which can trigger dangerous clots and impede the body's natural healing process.

In one study, interventional cardiologist Michael J. Mullen of the Royal Brompton Hospital in London and his colleagues treated people who had a defective opening in the central wall of the heart. Such defects can contribute to strokes (SN: 2/19/05, p.119:

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