What is a stent and why would you need one?

September 09, 2020 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Hearts

In the fight against heart disease, stents have become a valuable tool to help prevent heart attacks and stroke.

Each year the United States reports about 370,000 deaths due to coronary disease, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. According to some statistics, more than 2 million people get a stent each year.

Actor Susan Lucci has shared her story of having two stents placed into her arteries after doctors found blockage, due to calcium buildup, in two of her arteries.

In 2018, Lucci was taken to the hospital after experiencing some pain in her chest. After some tests, her doctor found that one of her arteries was 90 percent blocked while another had 70 percent blockage. Stents were used to reopen each artery and restore blood flow.

A stent is a small wire mesh tube that helps prop a clogged artery open. Stents, which are permanent, are inserted through a procedure called a percutaneous coronary intervention (or angioplasty). The procedure, which involves a small balloon to help open the artery, is done through an artery in your groin, wrist or arm area.

Once the stent reaches the blocked area, the balloon is inflated to help break up the blockage and open the artery. When the artery is open, the balloon is deflated and removed, and the stent remains in place to keep the artery open and blood flowing to help reduce the risk for future heart attacks or stroke.

There are two main types of stents your doctor may use — a non-coated wire mesh or a drug-eluting stent. The latter has a polymer coating that, over time, releases drugs to help prevent the blockage from returning.

Stents are just one tool doctors use to treat heart disease. If your heart disease is considered stable but you still have some angina or other conditions, your doctor may suggest lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, quit smoking, etc.) and medications to treat your condition.

If your heart disease is more severe, your doctor may recommend bypass surgery, particularly if your heart muscle is weak, the artery that brings blood to the left side of your heart is too narrow, or if you are a diabetic and have multiple blockages.

Patients who undergo a stent procedure often recover faster and have less discomfort than those who undergo bypass surgery. Stents also help reduce the re-narrowing of the arteries, a condition called restenosis.

Patients who have stents implanted will need to take medication after the procedure to help prevent blood clots from forming in the stent. Your doctor may recommend aspirin or other antiplatelet drugs.

Your doctor will give you instructions as it relates to your medication as well as information on when you can return to normal physical activity or any additional changes you should make.

It is important that you take your medications as prescribed and that you work with your care team and keep them informed of any changes in your health condition.

Your heart is in expert hands when you choose Edward-Elmhurst Heart Hospital for your heart care. We are consistently among the first in the state and the nation to introduce new and groundbreaking procedures for heart and vascular disease. Learn more.

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