A stent is a medical device implanted in an artery as part of a medical procedure. It’s a small, wire mesh tube that can serve several purposes. If an artery is narrowed or blocked to the point that blood flow is disrupted, the stent can open the artery and help to restore flow. Also, if an artery is weak and might potentially burst, the stent can help to strengthen it. The medical procedure to insert a stent is known as an angioplasty.
More About Angioplasty
An angioplasty is performed with a medical instrument known as a catheter. This is a thin, flexible tube that is inserted into an opening in a blood vessel and threaded to the site where the stent is needed. The movement of the catheter is guided by X-rays.
At the end of the catheter, the stent is placed around a deflated balloon. Once it’s in position, the balloon is inflated. This opens up the artery, as well as the stent, and pushes the stent into position in the artery . Stents do have the possibility of closing again once put in place, but the newest stents have a medicinal coating on them that helps to prevent this. These are known as drug-eluting stents.
Advantages of Stents
In some cases, a balloon angioplasty is done without the insertion of a stent, but performing the procedure with the stent seems to reduce the risk of the artery re-narrowing after the procedure. In addition, a procedure involving a stent is much less invasive and offers a shorter recovery time than alternative procedures like coronary artery bypass surgery. It’s also a more comfortable procedure while it’s being performed and during the recovery process.
SOURCES: U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; American Heart Association