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Test boosts stent for tiny arteries

NEW ORLEANS -- Tiny clogged arteries in the heart that have long bedeviled cardiologists' attempts at repair can now be kept flowing smoothly with new drug-coated stents that are revolutionizing treatment of larger vessels.

Research released yesterday in New Orleans at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology, suggests these tiny wire coils should solve one of the major problems of treating people with clogged arteries.

Although larger arteries are relatively easy to fix, about two-thirds of patients undergoing angioplasty suffer from blockages in ones under 2 millimeters in diameter. Typically doctors force these arteries open with a balloon and install a stent, but about half the time, they clog again.

Over the past year, many doctors have switched to a new kind of stent -- Johnson & Johnson's Cypher -- that exudes a drug that prevents the artery from reclogging. Early studies suggested the stents could work in small arteries as well as big, but a team from Italy released data yesterday showing use of the Cypher in small arteries cut the failure rate to 10 percent.

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