Stents are simple and useful devices for people who suffer from heart problems or heart-induced chest pain. Placing a stent is a fairly simple medical procedure — let’s take a look at what’s involved.
Who gets a stent?
Coronary artery stents are fairly common, with about two million people getting the procedure every year. They can be placed during a heart attack, but they are also commonly used to prevent heart attacks in somebody who has a blocked artery.
After experiencing chest pain, a patient may undergo a coronary angiogram, which looks for blockages using X-rays. If doctors find a blockage, they may recommend placing a stent.
What is a stent exactly?
A stent is a mesh tube that can be placed inside a partially blocked artery to hold it open. Typically doctors insert a thin tube through an artery in the person’s wrist or groin, and thread that all the way up to the arteries around the heart. Once the tube reaches the blockage, they inflate a balloon to widen the space.
The balloon has the stent folded around it, but after the balloon is inflated, the stent sticks in place to hold the artery open. (The rest of the equipment is removed.) Here’s a video from Mayo Clinic that shows what happens inside the artery:
An angioplasty and stent placement usually takes one to three hours, according to WebMD, and people are usually back at work the following week.