Coronary stents are small, mesh-like tubes made of wire that are placed inside a clogged artery to widen it and reduce the chance of it narrowing again. These stents are often permanent fixtures in an artery and, over time, the inner lining of the artery will grow over the stent.
Coronary stents are often used to treat coronary artery disease (CAD), a condition in which plaque builds up in the arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart. Too much plaque buildup can result in the artery narrowing or becoming completely blocked, which could lead to a heart attack.
Procedure DetailsInserting a coronary stent into an artery is a minimally invasive procedure that is often combined with angioplasty. The surgeon will create an incision near the groin to insert a catheter into a blood vessel. At the tip of the catheter will be a balloon with a stent collapsed around it. The surgeon will guide the catheter through the blood vessel until it reaches the clogged artery. Once in place, the catheter will release the balloon and stent into the artery. The surgeon will inflate the balloon to widen the artery and push plaque up against the wall (angioplasty) and that process will also expand the stent. Once the stent is fully expanded and in place, the balloon will be deflated and brought back into the catheter.
What to Expect
There are two types of coronary stents that a patient can receive:
- Drug-eluting stents – These stents feature a polymer coating that gradually releases medication over time to reduce the chance of the artery re-narrowing.
- Bare-metal stents – These stents do not have a polymer coating and do not release medication to the arteries.
After the stent placement, most patients will remain in the hospital overnight so that their condition can be closely monitored. Once home, patients can generally return to work and resume normal activities within a week.
While rare, there are certain risks to a coronary stent procedure:
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Chest pain
- A reaction to the contrast dye
- Blood vessel damage
- Blood clots within the treated blood vessel
- Bleeding at the catheter insertion site
- Kidney damage
Coronary stents are generally very effective at increasing blood flow throughout a blocked artery, and most patients find their symptoms of coronary artery disease reduce after the procedure. However, it will not completely cure heart disease and that’s why the procedure should be combined with healthy lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise.
At Tampa General Hospital’s Heart & Vascular Institute, the highly skilled cardiovascular surgeons provide coronary stents, angioplasty and other procedures to treat coronary artery disease. We are committed to delivering world-class outcomes and individualized care to every patient we serve.