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Published on January 17, 2017

Heart Attack Research Database Helps Makes Angioplasty and Stents Top Treatments for Blocked Arteries


Angioplasty and stents have become standards of care for opening arteries and keeping them open, thanks in part to a long-term database begun years ago in the Piedmont.

Cone Health’s Heart and Vascular Center, recently recognized for having the nation’s lowest heart attack readmission rate, has been a leader in heart disease treatment for more than 30 years. This is partly due to Cone Health’s research-driven culture, led by the health network’s LeBauer Cardiovascular Research Foundation. The foundation enables Heart and Vascular Center staff to employ leading-edge treatments and conduct long-term monitoring of patient health.

For many years, one of the foundation’s most successful projects was its heart attack research database, started in 1983 by Bruce Brodie, MD, and Richard Weintraub, MD.

Dr. Stuckey holds a stent

Thomas Stuckey, MD, medical
director of the LeBauer Cardiovascular
Research Center and director of
quality for Moses Cone Hospital holds
a stent, demonstrating its small size.

Blockage in an artery can cause a heart attack. Blockage is typically treated with a procedure called an angioplasty, in which a catheter is inserted into the artery and then a balloon is sent down the wire and inflated, expanding the artery. As a result, blood can flow through the artery, making it easier for the heart to pump.

Unfortunately, in some patients the artery closes again after the balloon is removed. To prevent this from happening, a stent—usually a tiny wire mesh or plastic tube—is placed in the artery to keep it open. Opening an artery promptly during a heart attack with a balloon is lifesaving, and following that with a stent helps keep it open long term.

Cone Health was one of the pioneering U.S. medical centers in the early 1980s that employed balloon angioplasty to open blocked heart attack arteries, and, in 1983, started building what would become one of the largest heart attack research databases in the nation to evaluate long-term outcomes.

In the early 1990s, Moses Cone Hospital also became one of the first centers to test the use of stents, which demonstrated that adding a stent when treating a heart attack had better results than angioplasty alone.

“The stent research conducted here has contributed to scientific advances around the world,” says Sally Milks, RN, BSN, research nurse coordinator for the LeBauer Cardiovascular Research Foundation. “We continue that research today, evaluating the newer generations of stents that will ultimately benefit patients in our community and nationwide.”

Much of what is considered to be the best way to treat heart attacks today is based on insight garnered from medical practice at Cone Health and data from heart attack research databases led by visionary Greensboro-based physicians.

“The vision of pioneers like Dr. Brodie set the country on the path we’re on now of using stents,” says Thomas Stuckey, MD, co-founder and current medical director of the LeBauer Cardiovascular Research Foundation.