What is a stent?
A stent is a small rod made out of metal or fabric. It is inserted into a coronary artery when there is a blockage or when the artery is narrow. A coronary artery is a blood vessel that carries oxygen to the heart muscle.
There are two types of stents:
- Bare-metal stent: This is a stent made of metal that is placed in the artery to help hold it open. Over time, the artery will heal and tissue will grow over the stent, holding it in place.
- Drug-eluting stent: A drug-eluting stent is a metal stent that is coated in a medicine. The medicine is slowly released and may help prevent excess tissue from growing over the stent. Excess tissue can cause the artery to narrow again, restricting blood flow.
Why do I need a stent?
You may need a stent if you have coronary artery disease (also called CAD or coronary heart disease). CAD is caused by a thickening of the inside walls of the coronary arteries. This thickening is called atherosclerosis (say: “ath-uh-roe-skluh-roe-suhs”). A fatty substance called plaque builds up inside the thickened walls of the arteries, blocking or slowing the flow of blood. If your heart muscle doesn’t get enough blood to work properly, you may have angina (chest pain) or a heart attack. The stent will help hold the artery open so blood can flow and help keep the artery from narrowing again.
My doctor says I will need a stent. What will the procedure be like?
If you need a stent, it will be placed during a procedure called an angioplasty. Angioplasty is a surgical treatment for CAD. You will be awake during the procedure, but you will be given medicine to help you relax. The doctor will make a very small incision in an artery in your leg, arm, or neck. The area will be numb so that you will not feel pain. A very small tube, called a catheter, will be inserted into the artery. On the tip of the catheter is a small, deflated balloon. The doctor will put the stent around the deflated balloon. The catheter will be carefully guided into the artery and up to the point where there is a blockage. The balloon will be inflated to help stretch out the artery and allow blood to flow. This also expands the stent, which locks into place to permanently help support the artery. Once the stent is in place, the balloon is deflated and the catheter and balloon will be removed.
How will I feel after getting a stent?
After an angioplasty, you will stay in the hospital for a day while your heart is monitored. You will be given medicine to keep clots from forming and to relax your arteries. The place where the incision was made may be sore or tender.
Once you go home, you will need to rest and relax. You will not be able to exercise or lift heavy objects for about a week. Your doctor will tell you what you can and cannot do while you recover at home.
Call your doctor if you experience symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or any pain, swelling, or bleeding from the incision area.
What will my life be like after I get a stent?
After you have an angioplasty, you will need to take medicine that keeps the stent open and blood flowing. It is very important to take the medicine exactly how your doctor tells you to take it.
In addition to taking medicine, the best way to keep your heart healthy is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Your doctor can help you to do the following:
- Quit smoking.
- Make sure you keep your blood pressure and cholesterol at healthy levels.
- Exercise 30 minutes, 5 days per week.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet.
This content was developed with general underwriting support from Nature Made®.
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.