A stent is a small mesh tube that’s used to treat narrowed or weakened arteries in the body. You may have a stent placed in an artery as part of an angioplasty procedure. Angioplasty can restore blood flow through narrowed or blocked arteries, while stents help prevent arteries from becoming narrowed or blocked again in the months or years after treatment with angioplasty. You may also have a stent placed in a weakened artery to improve blood flow and to help prevent the artery from bursting.
To place a stent, your doctor makes a small opening in a blood vessel in your groin (upper thigh), arm, or neck. Through this opening, a flexible, plastic tube (catheter) with a collapsed balloon and stent on the end is threaded up to the area of the artery that needs treatment. The balloon is then expanded, which widens the narrowed artery and pushes the stent into place.
The placement of a stent only takes a few hours. Angioplasty and stents are often used to relieve chest pain and minimize damage to the heart due to narrowed or blocked heart arteries. They also are used in other arteries in the body to prevent loss of blood flow to the limbs, and to prevent weakened arteries from bursting.
Other important notes
Stents are usually made of metal mesh, but sometimes they’re made of fabric. Fabric stents, also called stent grafts, are used in larger arteries.You may have to stay in the hospital for up to 3 days, depending on which artery was treated. You may feel some pain when the balloon is expanded to push a stent into place.
To prevent blood clots, you will probably take blood-thinning medicines for at least a few months after having a stent placed. Developing a blood clot at the stent site is the main risk of having a stent. Blood clots can cause heart attack, stroke, and other serious problems. This risk is greatest during the first few months after the stent is placed in the artery. Taking blood-thinning or anticlotting medicines can decrease the risk for a blood clot. There also are risks related to angioplasty and to the placement of the stent.
Patients with drug-releasing stents are usually advised to take aspirin and an anticlotting drug, such as clopidogrel, for months to years to lower the risk of blood clots.Vigorous exercise and heavy lifting should be avoided for a short time after a stent procedure. Your doctor will discuss with you when you can resume normal activities.