Coronary stents are small expandable tubes used to treat narrowed or weakened arteries around the heart. The narrowing of coronary arteries is a result of coronary heart disease—a condition caused by the accumulation of fat and cholesterol on the inner walls. Stents are used to open such arteries and help reduce symptoms such as chest pain (angina) or to help treat a heart attack.
Commonly referred to as coronary stents, these tiny tubes may also be called cardiac stents or heart stents. Typically made of metal wire mesh, coronary stents are implanted in narrowed coronary arteries during angioplasty.
Unlike Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG) surgery, coronary stenting is minimally invasive because the procedure involves no major incisions. Coronary stenting is performed with local anaesthesia, and usually only takes an hour, depending on how many stents are necessary. Patients who undergo stenting experience significantly less discomfort and undergo a shorter recovery time than those who undergo CAGB.
Since the stent is not native to the body, its use may incite an immune response. As a result, scar tissue may rapidly grow over the stent in a process called cell proliferation.
Clots might also form at the site where the stent presses into the arterial walland cause a sudden re-narrowing or even complete blockage of the artery. This process is known as in-stent thrombosis. In order to avoid this, patients are required to take blood-thinning medication following coronary stenting. These include aspirin, which has to be taken indefinitely, and Brilinta or clopidogrel (Plavix), which is usually prescribed for a minimum of one month up to a maximum of twelve.
If stents do not work and the arteries reclose, you may need to undergo coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG).