Stents Q&A

What is a stent?

A stent is a metal or plastic tube that is placed into a bodily structure in order to open up a blocked passageway. They are an important part of treating blocked or narrowed arteries in the body. The procedure is often minimally invasive but blood thinner medications may need to be taken to stop clots from forming and blocking these stents. 

What are the different types of stents?

The type of stent used depends on where it needs to be placed. Coronary and carotid artery stents often have a base made of wire mesh and they are used to open up the arteries to improve the flow of blood to the heart muscle or to the brain. Some coronary artery stents are drug-eluting types which has a layer of medicine that coats the stent and is released overtime to help stop the artery from narrowing. Stents made of polyester fabric with a metal mesh backbone are often used in the aorta to treat aneurysms. These aortic stents are also called stent grafts. Stents that are used to open up the airways are often constructed of silicone or metal, and in some cases they may be a hybrid type made of metal along with another material. 

How long does it take to recover after getting a stent?

Recovery from stents depends on what type of stent is placed and what procedure is used. The recovery is usually rapid from12 to 24 hours when the stent is placed by angioplasty which is minimally invasive. In the case of stent grafts into the aorta, the recovery time is often longer because the procedure of placing the stent to repair the aorta is more complex, and so it may take several weeks to completely recover, unless the less invasive endovascular stent grafting procedure is done. This is a newer method of treating an abdominal aortic aneurysm and also involves threading the graft through an artery using a catheter.

How serious is having a stent put in?

It depends where a stent is being placed, and the procedure is more serious if it is in the aorta. The stents placed in coronary and carotid arteries are often inserted by angioplasty which is minimally invasive. The fact that you need stents in your blood vessels does indicate that you have a problem with narrowed or blocked arteries, or you have an aneurysm.

What causes a person to need a stent?

A stent is needed anytime an artery is significantly narrowed or blocked causing a significant reduction of blood flow which compromises the circulation. A stent is also needed to help support the wall of the aorta when there is an aortic aneurysm.

What happens if a stent can’t be used for blocked coronary arteries?

Sometimes patients need to have open heart surgery when they have blocked coronary arteries of the heart. Patients may need to have a standard coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) or the newer multi-vessel off-pump CABG procedure done. The off-pump CABG (OPCABG) has advantages in that the heart is not placed on bypass and the risk of stroke and bleeding is reduced. Recovery also seems to be better with the newer method. In both CABG procedures, the blocked artery is bypassed to create a path for blood flow to the heart muscle. A piece of the saphenous vein is used as a graft but doctors do also now use the left internal mammary artery (LIMA), right internal mammary artery(RIMA) and the radial artery (RA) as grafts. 

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