What is a Stent?
A stent is a small expandable tube that is inserted in a weak or narrow artery to improve blood flow. It may also be used in other hollow areas of the body including the urinary tube. Stents are either made of a metal or plastic mesh or fabric. Fabric stents (also known as stent grafts) are used in larger arteries. Some stents may also be coated with medicine which is slowly released into the arteries to prevent them from being blocked again.
What are Stents Used for?
Stents help arteries and blood vessels to stay open and prevent cardiac arrest. Coronary or cardiac stents are the more commonly used and may treat a variety of heart conditions including:
- Coronary heart disease
- Carotid artery disease
- Peripheral artery disease
- Renal artery stenosis
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm
- Thoracic aortic aneurysm
Stents may also be inserted in the arteries to the kidneys as blockages here can affect kidney function. They are sometimes used for arteries in the limbs of patients with peripheral artery disease (P.A.D.), a condition in which severe arterial narrowing can cut off blood flow and result in the patient requiring surgery.
As mentioned earlier, stents are also used in other areas of the body such as to hold open a damaged or blocked ureter, bile ducts or airways.
How Stenting is Done
A stent becomes a permanent part of your artery or any other area where it is inserted. Here is what a typical cardiac stenting process involves:
- A special dye is inserted into the arteries to help the surgeon guide the stent into position as well as monitor blood flow
- A small incision is then made in your groin, arm, or neck for the stent to enter your body
- The surgeon inserts a balloon catheter ( a small plastic tube with a balloon on the tip) into the incision and guides it to the blocked artery
- The balloon is inflated to open up the blockage
- A stent is then guided to the site and inserted to keep the blocked area open
- Once the stent is in place, the balloon catheter is deflated and removed
- More than one stent may be used depending on the extent of the blockage
Advantages of Using a Stent
A stent may eliminate the need for a coronary bypass surgery. It is a minimally invasive alternative to coronary artery bypass grafting and has a faster recovery period as well. Patients are able to leave the hospital in a day and can quickly return to their normal activities when compared to the typical six-week recommended recovery after a bypass surgery. Most patients do not require general anesthesia for this procedure.
It is important to understand that although a stent can bring about a significant improvement in your condition, it is not a cure for heart disease. You will still need to monitor and manage other health conditions, if any, and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Our team at The Vascular Experts can help determine if you or a loved one will need or benefit from stents. We offer state-of-the-art vascular technology and treatments in multiple locations to help improve your quality of life. All patients are assessed, diagnosed and treated by our vascular experts who provide the highest level of healthcare.