A stent is a small mesh tube that's used to treat narrowed or weakened arteries in the body.
You may have a stent placed in an artery as part of a procedure called angioplasty. Angioplasty restores blood flow through narrowed or blocked arteries. Stents help prevent the arteries from becoming narrowed or blocked again in the months or years after angioplasty.
You also may have a stent placed in a weakened artery to improve blood flow and help prevent the artery from bursting.
Stents usually are made of metal mesh, but sometimes they're made of fabric. Fabric stents, also called stent grafts, are used in larger arteries.
Stents can be placed in the coronary arteries, carotid arteries, and the arteries in the kidneys and limbs. Stents also are used to repair aneurysms in the aorta, the major artery that carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the body.
To place a stent, your doctor makes a small opening in a blood vessel in your groin (upper thigh), arm, or neck. Through this opening, a thin, flexible tube called a catheter with a deflated balloon and stent on the end is threaded up to the area of the artery that needs treatment. The balloon is then expanded, which widens the narrowed artery and pushes the stent into place.
The placement of a stent takes about an hour or more. You may have to stay in the hospital for up to 3 days, depending on which artery is treated.
To prevent blood clots after having a stent placed, your doctor will likely recommend that you take aspirin and another anticlotting medicine for at least 1 month or up to a year or more, depending on the type of stent you get. It's very important to continue taking these medicines for as long as your doctor recommends.
Avoid vigorous exercise and heavy lifting for a short time after a stent procedure. Your doctor will let you know when you can go back to your normal activities.
Angioplasty is a common medical procedure. There's a small risk of serious complications, such as bleeding at the catheter insertion site, damage to the blood vessel where the catheter was inserted, irregular heartbeats, infection, and damage to the kidneys or an allergic reaction due to the dye used during the procedure.
Another problem after angioplasty is too much tissue growth within the treated portion of the artery. This is called restenosis.
About 1 to 2 percent of people who have a stented artery develop a blood clot at the stent site. The risk of blood clots is greatest during the first few months after the stent is placed in the artery. Taking aspirin and another anticlotting medicine can lower the risk for blood clots.
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