When Is It Time for a Heart Stent?

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A stent is a small mesh or fabric tube placed in an artery to keep it open when a fatty substance called plaque has begun to accumulate and block blood flow. If the narrowing is directly affecting the heart, the condition is known as coronary artery disease.

When is it Time for a Heart Stent Procedure?

If you’re having a heart attack, angioplasty (a procedure that uses a balloon to expand an artery) and the insertion of a stent may be needed to save your life or minimize the damage done to your heart by reduced blood flow. However, if you’re not experiencing a heart attack but have what’s referred to as stable heart disease, the decision to undergo stenting is more complicated.

If your doctor suggests having a stent put in place, there are certain considerations that are likely driving the recommendation. One may be that you have unstable angina. This condition is a medical emergency, similar to a heart attack and requires prompt intervention to improve your outcome.

Another driver for stenting is that the blockage in your artery is having a negative impact on your quality of life and other treatments haven’t been effective. These treatments may include drug therapy and lifestyle changes (quitting smoking, getting more exercise, eating a heart-healthy diet, etc.).

Stenting Procedure and Risks

Stenting involves your doctor making a small incision in your neck, arm or groin, inserting a tube called a catheter and working it through the artery to the point of the blockage. A tiny balloon at the end of the catheter is inflated to widen the artery. The stent is put in place and the catheter and balloon are removed. The procedure takes approximately an hour, but most people spend the night in the hospital for observation.

Stenting is a widely used procedure but, like any surgery, it does have risks. They include:

  • Allergic reaction to dyes or medications
  • Breathing issues from the anesthesia
  • Blood clots
  • Heart attack
  • Infection in the artery
  • Re-narrowing of the artery

In rare cases, a seizure or stroke can occur.

Recovering from a Stenting Procedure

How quickly you recover after getting a stent depends on your general health, the type and degree of blockage and other factors. You may be able to return to work within a week with certain limitations, including avoiding heavy lifting or intense stress. You may also be required to take medications to prevent the formation of blood clots or plaques. Your doctor and care team will work with you to develop a detailed post-procedure recovery plan.

Turn to Baptist Health for Heart Care Services. Baptist Health’s highly skilled cardiologists offer a progressive approach to heart care with personalized, patient-oriented diagnosis and treatment protocols. Whether your diagnosis is coronary artery and vascular disease, heart failure or heart rhythm disorders, our doctors and staff members help our heart patients in and around Kentucky live better, healthier lives with the best possible outcomes.

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