What You Need to Know About a Stent Procedure

November 12, 2012

What You Need to Know About a Stent Procedure

If you have a heart problem or have suffered a heart attack, chances are that your cardiologist or doctor will mention stent procedures. This is a surgical procedure but less intensive than a coronary bypass or balloon angioplasty surgeries. A stent procedure may also be done in combination with a balloon angioplasty because inflating the balloon can help open up a blocked artery. The stent is then placed into the newly opened area, and then the balloon is deflated and removed.

So, just what is a stent? It’s a tiny tube made of bendable wire mesh. It’s like a catheter for an artery. When arteries collapse, blood cannot flow to the heart. The stent props up the artery walls to keep blood flowing to the heart. The stent then stays in the patient’s artery for the rest of his or her life. Stent procedures are the usual choices for older patients or patients with lung problems as well as a blocked artery.

Potential Problems

Although stent procedures have become common surgeries since the first one performed in 1986, they are not without problems. However, stent procedures often have fewer problems than a coronary artery bypass surgery or a balloon angioplasty. The big problem with an angioplasty is that the balloon holding open an artery may collapse.

This is also a problem with stents, but stents do not reclose as often as the balloons used in angioplasty surgeries. In order to avoid collapsing, the stents are coated with drugs to help keep it in place. But not all patients can take these drugs. If a patient’s medical history indicates that he or she may be allergic to these drugs, than a plain metal stent is used.

Life With Stents

Stents are not a magic cure for heart disease. After undergoing a stent procedure, the patient needs to make some lifestyle changes in order to avoid going back under the knife or from getting a blood clot. Patients should stop smoking, go on a heart-healthy, low-fat diet and refrain from drinking excessively. Patients may need to get a chest MRI regularly in order to see if the stent is still in place.

Patients usually need to take blood-thinning medications to avoid blood clots from forming. Patients may also need to take antibiotics. Both of these kinds of medications may cause side effects, but there are several medications for your doctor to choose from if the first medication does not work out. Patients with stents often worry if their stents will set off metal detectors at airports, but stents will not do this.

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