Stents are small, expandable tubes that treat narrowed arteries in your body. In people with coronary heart disease caused by the buildup of plaque, they can:
1. Open narrowed arteries
2. Reduce symptoms, like chest pain
3. Help treat a heart attack
These types are called heart stents, but they’re also referred to as cardiac stents or coronary stents. Usually made of metal mesh, they’re put into arteries in a procedure called a percutaneous coronary intervention or, its more common name, angioplasty.
Performed with local anesthesia and mild sedation, angioplasty involves no major incisions and usually takes about an hour. If you need more than one stent, it can take longer.
Compared to coronary artery bypass surgery, which is much more invasive, people who get stents have less discomfort and a shorter recovery time.
But stenting isn’t risk-free. A blood clot can form in one and cause your arteries to narrow again suddenly. It may even cause a complete blockage. To prevent this, people take one or more blood-thinning drugs after they get a stent. These can include aspirin, which usually must be taken indefinitely, and clopidogrel (Plavix), prasugrel (Effient), or ticagrelor (Brilinta), which are usually prescribed for at least 1 and up to 12 months.
Scar tissue or plaque can also form in the area of your stent. This can cause your artery to narrow again over a period of months. Your doctor may call this restenosis. If it happens, another stent can often solve the problem. In some cases, coronary artery bypass surgery may be needed.