Avera Medical Minute: Marking 30 years since the first cardiac stent procedure

Published: Jul. 10, 2023 at 10:31 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - This July marks the 30-year anniversary of one small intervention that also made South Dakota history.

Cardiologist Dr. Ray Allen was on the team that became the first to place a cardiac stent, a device used to hold open a patient’s blocked heart artery.

“To be part of that was way cool. It made a dramatic game-changer. Patients did better, we weren’t going back and doing emergency procedures. It’s continued to expand and it’s now the standard of care,” said Dr. Allen.

Willis Hanna became the first of many patients in South Dakota to receive a cardiac stent.

“I’ve got seven bypasses and four stents,” said Hanna.

Willis has a strong but tricky heart that required a little extra care throughout the eighties and nineties.

“So in 1993, I started getting chest pain again. They couldn’t get the blockage to stay open,” said Hanna.

That brought Willis to Dr. Raymond Allen’s team, who began considering innovative options to treat his recurring condition.

“I actually do remember a little bit about that case because we had to do some hoop jumping to get through that,” said Dr. Allen, an interventional cardiologist with the North Central Heart Institute a division of the Avera Heart Hospital.

What Dr. Allen proposed was to open Willis’s blockage by placing a cardiac stent. Up until then, stenting was used to open blockages in the blood vessels of the legs, but not inside the heart itself. In 1993, the FDA approved their use and Willis was about to make history.

“This was the first time that we were able to put a stent in and we put the first one in the state (South Dakota) in,” said Dr. Allen.

“As I was waiting and sitting, trying to find out something on how he was doing. All of a sudden I heard these two doctors coming down the hall saying, ‘It’s in and it works, it’s in and it works!’ It was just like two children coming down the hall of the hospital, and I knew I was taking him home again,” said Gail Hanna, Willis’ wife.

Willis says he makes it a priority to get more than two miles of walking in every day, something he hasn’t missed since getting out of the hospital 30 years ago.

For more information on cardiovascular services, go to Avera.org/MedicalMinute