Stents are small, expandable tubes. They are inserted during angioplasty into a narrowed or blocked section of the coronary artery to open the artery and improve blood flow.
Drug-eluting stents are used more often than bare-metal stents.
To decide which type of stent to use, your doctor will consider your overall health and your risk of a heart attack. You'll talk with your doctor about whether you can and want to take blood-thinning medicines for at least 1 year.
How stents are placed in an artery
A stent is placed in a coronary artery during an angioplasty procedure.
A doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube called a catheter into an artery in your groin or arm. The doctor moves the catheter through that artery to the coronary arteries. The doctor then uses dye to see any arteries that are blocked or narrowed. If you have a blocked or narrowed artery, a tiny balloon is moved through the catheter. It is used to widen the artery.
The doctor uses the balloon to place a stent in the artery. The balloon is placed inside the stent and inflated. This opens the stent and pushes it into place against the artery wall. Because the stent is like woven mesh, the cells lining the blood vessel grow through and around the stent to help secure it.
Living with a stent
You don't have to live differently if you have a stent. But you'll want to take care of your heart by eating healthy, being active, staying at a healthy weight, taking your medicines, and not smoking. There are a few precautions to follow.
Aspirin and other antiplatelet medicines
Take your blood-thinning medicines to help prevent a heart attack. You may take aspirin plus another antiplatelet. If you get a drug-eluting stent, you may take both of these medicines for at least 6 months. If you get a bare-metal stent, you may take both medicines for at least 1 month. If you had a heart attack, you may take both medicines for at least 1 year. If you have a high risk of bleeding, your doctor may shorten the time you take these medicines. You can work with your doctor to decide how long you will take both of these medicines. This decision may depend on your risk of a heart attack, your risk of bleeding, and your preferences about taking medicine.
Stent identification card
Carry your stent identification card. Your doctor will give you a card for your wallet or purse that you can show to your health professionals so they know that you have a stent.
Current as of: June 25, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board: All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.