Refined angioplasty cuts deaths by 200 per year
On 1 December Lokien van Nunen received his PhD with distinction for his study into a method of angioplasty whereby stents are implanted more selectively on the basis of blood pressure measurements around the strictures. Van Nunen, having a specialist training to become a cardiologist at the Catharina Hospital, has established that angioplasty intervention cuts the risk of death from cardiac failure within five years by thirty percent. In the Netherlands that amounts to 200 deaths per year.
For five years Van Nunen followed a thousand patients from a number of European countries and the United States who had various coronary artery defects (from the FAME study). Some had received traditional angioplasty treatment, with stents implanted on the basis of X-ray images. For other patients a special sensor measured the blood pressure before and after a stricture, known as the Fractional Flow Reserve (or FFR) measurement. On the basis of these measurements, stents were implanted only in strictures with an abnormal FFR value.
The FAME study revealed that when the FFR method was used, the risk of death, suffering a coronary failure or needed extra intervention fell by 25 to 30 percent during the first year. Van Nunen established in his thesis that these positive effects among the patient group also remained after five years; patients treated using the FFR method still had 30 percent less risk of dying from cardiac failure than patients treated in the conventional way. In the Netherlands that is equivalent to 200 deaths per year, and worldwide 15,000 deaths per year.
Lokien van Nunen (1987) studied medicine at the Maastricht University before starting his training to become a cardiologist at the Catharina Hospital in Eindhoven under the supervision of prof.dr. Nico Pijls. He combined his training with a PhD study. He has an impressive list of publications (16) to his name, in renowned journals such as The Lancet and The New England Journal of Medicine.
Rare Doctorates with distinction are relatively rare – just around five percent of all PhD candidates achieve this. It is an honor that goes only to those whose study is exceptional in terms of both quality and the level of independent research.