A new type of removable stent, created in 2015 for use in blood vessels, shows potential to also be used in the respiratory tract, which could transform treatment for patients who are short of breath due to narrowing of the airways — such as lung cancer patients.
Erney Mattsson, MD, PhD, a professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), was the brain behind the idea for this new stent. He co-authored an article about the finding titled “A New Removable Airway Stent,” published in the European Clinical Respiratory Journal.
Traditional stents are cylindrical mesh tubes that can be used to open obstructions or areas that are narrow or weak in the arteries or in the lungs. These stents work well but they must remain in the body. The new removable stent offers a number of advantages, according to Mattsson.
“That’s because a foreign object causes the body to react so that the vessel narrows again. The best is if we can simply remove the stent after it has done its job,” Mattsson said in a press release.
Mattsson tested and assessed different approaches, but he ultimately found his inspiration in an old pair of rag socks. The new stent is knitted and, much like a sock, it can be unraveled after use, allowing it to be removed after it has done its job.
“It sounds simple once you know about it, but basically we tried different ways of removing stents. But it wasn’t until I saw a pair of old-fashioned rag socks that I had a Eureka moment. So that was it,” Mattsson said. “All we have to do is leave a thread sticking out, and then we have to have a hold on the stent. Then we pull the thread and the stent unravels, and gets smaller and smaller.”
Co-author Tore Amundsen, who collaborated with Mattsson on the development of the removable stent, said the stent can be used in pulmonary medicine, but it can also be used to help surgeons perform surgeries via the airways.
“Being able to use a stent like this to temporarily open access to small tumors will be of great importance. And then you can avoid doing open surgery,” Amundsen said.