Objectives. This study evaluated the delivery characteristics and vascular response to placement of a novel balloon-expandable stent in swine with experimentally induced atherosclerosis. Background. The Multi-Link stent is a balloon-expandable stainless steel stent with an interconnected ring structure designed to provide a high degree of compressive resistance while preserving longitudinal flexibility. The placement characteristics and vascular response to this stent in atherosclerotic coronary arteries have not been characterized. Methods. We tested the delivery characteristics and vascular response to the Multi-Link stent in 19 miniature swine with experimentally induced coronary atherosclerosis created in 37 coronary artery segments by overstretch balloon injury and high cholesterol diet. Quantitative coronary angiography was used to define stent performance characteristics, such as lesion dilation and compressive resistance. Pathologic assessment of the stented arteries was used to evaluate the immediate and long-term vascular response to stent placement. Results. Nineteen (95%) of 20 stents were successfully implanted in the left anterior descending (n = 11), left circumflex (n = 7) or right (n = 1) coronary artery. The baseline angiographic minimal lumen diameter of the stented coronary segment was 2.48 ± 0.09 mm (reference diameter 2.87 ± 0.06 mm, mean ± SE) and increased to 2.82 ± 0.05 mm (p < 0.001) after stent placement. The balloon-inflated stent diameter was 2.98 ± 0.06 mm with minimal recoil to a final minimal lumen diameter of 2.82 ± 0.06 mm at 15 min after implantation (p = 0.001). Angiographic and histologic follow-up at 72 h (n = 7), 14 days (n = 4) and 56 days (n = S) demonstrated that all stents were patent, without evidence of migration, intraluminal filling defects or side branch occlusion. At 56 days, mean neointimal thickness was significantly greater at the stent wire sites in the region of the plaque where the media was absent than the stent wire sites, where the internal elastic lamina was intact with underlying normal media (0.48 ± 0.01 vs. 027 ± 0.02 mm, p < 0.0001). Compared with the nonstented atherosclerotic lesions, after 56 days the stented vessels had a mildly reduced lumen area when normalized to the proximal reference vessel (2.81 ± 0.27 vs. 2.68 ± 0.30 mm2, p = 0.07). The mean change in the area within the external elastic lamina relative to a normal proximal reference segment was significantly greater in stented vessels (1.45 ± 034 mm2) than nonstented atherosclerotic vessels (0.44 ± 0.28 mm2, p = 0.033). Conclusions. Morphologic data confirm that the principal beneficial effect of stent placement is vessel expansion and attenuation of constrictive remodeling. In vessels with eccentric atherosclerotic fibrocellular plaques, the presence of normal media underlying the stent determines the degree of neointimal formation. These data may be useful in understanding the mechanism of stent restenosis in patients with prior percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty.
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