Clinicians' contributions to the development of coronary artery stents: A qualitative study of transformative device innovation

Aaron S. Kesselheim, Shuai Xu, Jerry Avorn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background: Medical device innovation remains poorly understood, and policymakers disagree over how to incentivize early development. We sought to elucidate the components of transformative health care innovation by conducting an indepth case study of development of a key medical device: coronary artery stents. Methods and Findings: We conducted semi-structured interviews with the innovators whose work contributed to the development of coronary artery stents who we identified based on a review of the regulatory, patent, and medical literature. Semi-structured interviews with each participant covered the interviewee's personal involvement in coronary artery stent development, the roles of institutions and other individuals in the development process, the interplay of funding and intellectual property in the interviewee's contribution, and finally reflections on lessons arising from the experience. Transcripts were analyzed using standard coding techniques and the constant comparative method of qualitative data analysis. Conclusions: We found that the first coronary artery stents emerged from three teams: Julio Palmaz and Richard Schatz, Cesare Gianturco and Gary Roubin, and Ulrich Sigwart. First, these individual physician-inventors saw the need for coronary artery stents in their clinical practice. In response, they developed prototypes with the support of academic medical centers leading to early validation studies. Larger companies entered afterwards with engineering support. Patents became paramount once the technology diffused. The case of coronary stents suggests that innovation policy should focus on supporting early physician-inventors at academic centers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere88664
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 12 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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