Reasons Why You Might Need A Stent In Your Heart   

Reasons Why You Might Need A Stent In Your Heart

Reasons Why You Might Need A Stent In Your Heart
Clinical Contributors to this story:
Aarti Patel, M.D.
Your coronary arteries are blood vessels that supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart. When the arteries become narrowed or blocked, it’s difficult for blood to flow through.

Common reasons why a coronary artery may be blocked include:

  • Plaque buildup. Sometimes, a significant amount of a waxy substance containing cholesterol that’s called plaque builds up on the inner walls of one or more of the coronary arteries. This plaque buildup narrows the arteries, making it difficult for blood to flow through.
  • Coronary artery disease. If a significant amount of plaque narrows and blocks blood flow through the coronary arteries, a doctor may tell someone that they have coronary artery disease.

What a heart stent is and how it’s placed

A stent is a wire mesh tube that doctors insert within a coronary artery during angioplasty, a minimally invasive procedure. It helps prevent the artery from narrowing again after the procedure.

After sedation, doctors make a tiny incision – often along the forearm or in the leg, near the groin area – so that they can thread a thin tube, called a catheter, through a blood vessel in the leg and guide it until it reaches the coronary artery in the heart that has been narrowed or blocked by plaque or a blood clot.

Before the procedure, doctors place a collapsed stent around a special balloon within the catheter. When the catheter reaches the correct position within the coronary artery, doctors inflate the balloon. As it expands, it pushes the plaque or blood clot that’s narrowing or blocking the artery against the artery walls, widening the artery once again. Inflating the balloon also opens the stent, which remains behind within the coronary artery as scaffolding to keep the artery open. Doctors then deflate the balloon and remove it with the catheter.

When is a heart stent used 

Doctors may perform an angioplasty, the procedure during which a stent is placed in the heart:

  • During an emergency procedure when someone is having a heart attack, or shortly after someone has had a heart attack.
  • During an elective procedure when someone has coronary artery disease with chest pain (angina) that doesn’t improve with medication or lifestyle changes.

The stent helps to keep a previously narrowed coronary artery open, so that blood can flow through at a healthy rate.

“Placing a stent within someone’s coronary artery should allow more oxygen-rich blood to flow to the heart once again, which may eliminate some symptoms of coronary artery disease,” says cardiac electrophysiologist, Aarti Patel, M.D. “It may also help to minimize damage to the heart muscle among people who have had heart attacks.”

When you should talk to your doctor about symptoms

Although some people have angioplasty during a heart attack, it’s also an elective procedure that may benefit people with coronary artery disease.

Speak with your doctor to see if angioplasty with stenting may be appropriate for you if you experience symptoms like these:

  • Chest pain (angina) that worsens when you engage in physical activities
  • Shortness of breath that accompanies physical activity
  • Chest pain that doesn’t improve when you’ve taken medication or made lifestyle changes

Your doctor can let you know if you may be a candidate for stenting.

“Angioplasty and the insertion of a stent is not for everyone, but many people with coronary artery disease may benefit from this elective procedure,” says Dr. Patel. “However, another procedure, such as coronary artery bypass surgery, may be more appropriate in some circumstances.”

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.


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