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SAN DIEGO – Sharp Memorial is the first local hospital to offer a new coronary artery stent that is completely biodegradable.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States and nearly 1 million Americans need stents each year to open a blocked coronary artery, according to Sharp Memorial Hospital.

Mark Jurisich, an avid surfer in San Diego, is among those receiving stents after he learned Friday he suffered a heart attack.

“Probably for a month, I’d had these chest pains across the top of my chest. It was only when I was paddling,” said Jurisich .

Jurisich became the first patient at Sharp Memorial Hospital to have a new biodegradable stent made by Abbott Vascular called Absorb, since being approved by the FDA earlier in July. Dr. Raghava Gollapudi, MD Cath Lab director at Sharp Memorial Hospital, performed Jurisich's procedure.

“Sometimes when you have a metal stent, patients have to take blood thinners for an indefinite amount of time. With this new plastic stent, or absorbable stent, now they don’t have to worry about that long term blood thinner medicine,” Gollapudi said .

The traditional metal stent stays in the body permanently. The new biodegradable stent is the same size as the old device and begins to absorb after six months and is completely absorbed in two or three years. However, there are still side effects, and Absorb isn’t for everybody.

“If you put it in too small of an artery, in the clinical trial they had a little bit more blood clots form. If you put it in a medium size artery to a big artery the blood clot rates were of no difference,” said Dr. Gollapudi.

Jurisich was an ideal patient for the new stent.

“I’m anti-medicine. So to me that was great news to have something that is put into your heart that was going to disappear, I like that a lot,” said Jurisich.

The stent “Absorb” is going to be available at Sharp Grossmont and Sharp Chula Vista within the year, but is already available at Sharp Memorial.