In patients with severe artery blockage in the lower leg, an artery-supporting device called a resorbable scaffold is superior to angioplasty, which has been the standard treatment. A resorbable scaffold is a stent-like structure that props the artery open but is biodegradable and dissolves within a few years, avoiding some of the potential complications of a permanent stent.

The researchers compared the insertion of a resorbable scaffold — imbued with a drug to reduce the chance of reblockage — to standard angioplasty in 261 patients with severe artery disease below the knee. They found that 74 percent of the patients who received the resorbable scaffold avoided a bad outcome such as leg amputation or new artery-opening intervention in the year after the procedure, compared with 44 percent of patients who underwent angioplasty.

Resorbable scaffolds that slowly release inflammation-suppressing compounds are already used to treat coronary artery blockages, and some initial studies have suggested that they might be more effective than angioplasty for lower-leg artery disease. Scaffolds provide direct mechanical support to diseased arteries for much longer, compared to angioplasty. They also dissolve eventually, unlike permanent stents which can accelerate artery re-blockage by their long-term contact with artery walls and can complicate future interventions.

Scaffold insertion also appeared to be as safe as angioplasty, in terms of procedure-related complications. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

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