A coronary stent is a small piece of stainless steel mesh that is inserted into a coronary artery after angioplasty.
What does a stent do?
The stent holds the coronary artery open. The aim is to:
- improve blood flow to the heart muscle
- relieve the symptoms of coronary artery disease
- reduce the chance of the blockage returning.
There are many different types of stents. Your cardiologist will decide which is best for your heart.
The procedure is performed by a cardiologist, specialist nurses and technicians, and normally takes between 45 and 90 minutes. You will be asked not to eat or drink for six hours before the procedure.
A stent procedure is very similar to that of an angioplasty. A balloon-tipped catheter is passed through a sheath and into the coronary artery at the site of the narrowing or blockage. The catheter is then inflated, compressing the narrowing or blockage, and opening the artery. This improves blood flow to the heart.
You may feel some pressure when the balloon is inflated. This is normal and will go away quickly.
The catheter is then removed. The stent, mounted on the end of another balloon catheter, is moved up and positioned in the coronary artery, at the site of narrowing or blockage.
The catheter is inflated, causing the stent to expand and be implanted in the vessel. The balloon catheter is then deflated and removed. Sometimes more than one stent is placed in the artery. You can be reassured that your stent cannot move or be dislodged.
During the procedure you will be given a blood-thinning agent.
After the procedure, the sheath will be left in your groin or arm until the blood-thinning agent has worn off. This usually takes several hours.
It is important to keep the leg with the sheath flat for four hours and remain in bed for at least 12 hours (or longer for people on anti-clotting medicines). If the stent was inserted via the radial artery in your arm, you should remain in bed for two hours.
The nurse will remove the sheath and apply pressure to the site until it stops bleeding, generally within about 20 minutes.
You are usually in hospital for one or two days. However, it could be longer if you have started anti-clotting medications.
When you go home, your medications will include:
- warfarin (sometimes).
These all prevent blood clots from sticking to the surface of the stent and causing a blockage. It is very important that you follow the medication regime.
Do not stop taking any of the prescribed medications unless instructed to do so by the cardiologist who implanted the stent.
This information was first published in You and Your Heart - an education booklet for patients, families and friends. © 2006 Northern Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service