Harrison’s interventional cardiologists use the latest technology in stents for the minimally invasive treatment of blocked cardiac arteries. A stent, or wire mesh tube, is used to prop open an artery that has recently been cleared using angioplasty. The stent procedure is fairly common—over 1 million stents have been placed worldwide—and is becoming an alternative to coronary artery bypass surgery.
Stent insertion procedure
Procedures are performed in the cardiac catheterization laboratory, also called the cath lab. The stent is collapsed to a small diameter, placed over an angioplasty balloon catheter and moved into the area of the blockage. When the balloon is inflated, the stent expands, locks in place and forms a rigid support to hold the artery open. The stent remains in the artery permanently, holds it open, improves blood flow to the heart muscle, and relieves symptoms. Coronary angioplasty usually results in complete relief of chest pain, assuming all narrowed arteries are stented.
Innovations in stents
In recent years, doctors have used drug-eluting (drug releasing) stents that interfere with decrease renarrowing to less than 8%—versus 20-30% with previously used bare metal stents. Stents are constantly improving and have shown promise for even greater long-term success. We are always aware of innovations and use them when appropriate.
Life after the procedure
After a stent procedure, you will need to take one or more blood-thinning agents such as aspirin, Ticlopidine, Clopidogrel (Plavix) and/or Prasugrel (Effient). Aspirin is used indefinitely; the other drugs are required to be used for up to one year and blood tests will be done to check on progress.
There are cases when a doctor may choose not to stent all of a patient’s blockages and choose another method of treatment. These blood thinners call for prevention of most types of surgery due to increased risks of bleeding. If a non-cardiac surgery or procedure is required for another condition, then stenting may not be appropriate and your cardiologist will create another plan of care.
While stents have made living with coronary artery disease (CAD) easier, Harrison’s goal is to help you prevent future heart problems—that’s why we help you understand your condition and the lifestyle changes you can make that may prevent the need for further interventions.