If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a heart condition, your doctor may have mentioned the possibility of having a stent put in. Stents may be used to treat aortic aneurysm or dissection, carotid artery disease, coronary heart disease, or peripheral artery disease, in addition to other possible conditions, and while they are widely used to treat many heart and lung conditions, there are many risks and benefits that patients should know.
What is a stent?
A stent is a tiny, mesh-like tube that is placed inside the arteries to keep them open and allow for improved blood flow. Stents are commonly used to treat a condition called atherosclerosis, which is a buildup of plaque in the arteries. If this buildup persists, it can cause the arteries to narrow, reducing blood flow and increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Stents can be made of multiple materials. Stainless steel stents or bare metal stents keep the artery open after a buildup of plaque. Sometimes, these stents can have medicine on them, as in drug-eluting stents, in which case the medicine will help prevent the artery from narrowing again.
What are the advantages of stents?
Stents are a widely used treatment to improve blood flow, with an estimated 3 million stents used to treat patients each year worldwide, making this a well-accepted treatment around the world. Additionally, stents can help prevent multiple conditions, including angioplasty, heart attack, and can improve symptoms like shortness of breath and chest pain. Further, there is evidence to show that patients with a stent recover faster than those who go through coronary artery bypass surgery to achieve the same results.
What are the risks of stents?
Luckily, serious complications rarely arise from angioplasty and stent placement though, as a patient, there are some minor risks you should be aware of. Even after a stent is placed, there is a risk of a blood clot presenting itself within the stent. Additionally, your body may have a reaction to the stent or the drug coating it, as well as the possibility of the stent causing a tear inside your artery.
This being said, it’s important for patients to discuss the risks and benefits of stents with their doctor before their procedure to ensure they fully understand the process and any potential complications. Patients should also follow their doctor’s recommendations for recovery and lifestyle changes, which may include quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy diet, and exercising regularly to limit future blockages.