This new heart stent is the size of a strand of hair

HINSDALE, Ill. -- Smaller, sleeker, faster. Not sports cars -- stents. They’ve been in use for 25 years – at first looking like a pen coil. The new stent is the size of a strand of hair.

It’s tough to tell them apart side by side. But in the hands of Dr. Edgar Carell, an interventional cardiologist at Amita Health Hinsdale, it’s how the new stent maneuvers that makes a difference.

"This is a stent with about a 40 percent lower profile than the standard stents we use, which means we can deliver it to the area of blockage more easily, more rapidly with less contrast dye and with less radiation exposure to the patient," Carell said.

It’s called the Svelte stent. Doctors at Amita Health Hinsdale and LaGrange Hospitals are testing it out as part of a clinical trial. Just last week, Augie Neitzel woke up with pain in his arm and chest.

"We jumped in the car and I drove up to the hospital," Neitzel said.

Once there, he learned he’d be the first patient in the state to test drive the new, narrower device.

"They made a big deal out of it. To me it’s not big. I’m doing something for the people in the future," Neitzel said.

With three blockages in his heart, Neitzel received two standard stents then the Svelte to prop open a narrowing in his circumflex artery – a vessel with a tricky sharp turn.

“It tends to have an acute or sharp takeoff," Carrell said.

Dr. Meechai Tessalee inserted the device through Neitzel's radial artery and navigated the wire to the blockage. More than 80 percent of procedures are performed through the wrist.

“When we put a stent in typically we’re going through vessels that tend to have calcium and plaque and narrowing so there’s some resistance. As the stents get smaller and more flexible they are better able to track through those vessels," Carrell said.

The smaller and sleeker design doesn’t mean it’s less sturdy.

“The stent has a lower profile when it’s deflated. Once you get it to the area that you need to get it to, it has the same radial force, the ability to hold the vessel open as the other stents we use," Carrell said.

"I feel great. We’ve got stairs. I go down into the basement, it’s 13 stairs. I go up and down and I don’t have any shortness of breath or anything like that, so I think I’m on the way to recovery," Neitzel said.

Carell and his team are hoping to enroll 40 to 60 patients in their study of the drug eluding stent that’s been in use in Europe for several years.

To learn more about the stent trial at Amita Health, call the clinical research center at 630-528-4370.