A stent is a tiny expandable coil that is placed inside a blood vessel at the site of a blockage to open up the obstruction. A stent is commonly placed during cardiac catheterization to improve blood flow to the heart and decrease chest pain. Stents also can be placed in arteries involved in peripheral circulation to improve blood flow to the extremities and head.
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center exceeds national standards regarding the “door to balloon time” for acute cardiac events. Our team of interventional cardiologists is dedicated not only to patient care, but are also on the leading edge of both clinical and basic science research.
Ohio State’s Ross Heart Hospital performs more than 5,000 procedures a year, making it one of the highest volume centers in the area. Because we’ve done so many procedures, our staff is better equipped and more experienced in handling even the most difficult cases.
We’re putting our cath lab to good use, using it for more than just normal heart catheterizations by developing monitoring methods and treatments for heart failure that can be performed in the cath lab and researching stem cell treatments for heart attack. Our interventional cardiology program (including our cath lab) experienced a 20 percent increase in procedures between 2006 and 2009 – all of this despite a national downturn in caths and coronary angioplasties.
What Is a Stent?
A stent is an expandable metal coil—sometimes coated with a drug that is released over time—that is placed in a blocked blood vessel to prevent it from becoming blocked again. If your cardiologist determines that you need a stent, he’ll most likely do so during a cardiac catheterization. Your cardiologist uses imaging (X-rays) and dyes to precisely locate any narrowed areas in your blood vessels. If he or she finds narrowed areas, the cardiologist then places a stent; the x-rays and dyes also help to ensure proper stent placement. The stent is placed on a balloon catheter (small tube) and threaded to the narrowed artery. The balloon is inflated, then deflated and removed, leaving the stent in place within your artery.
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center has extensive experience with minimally invasive coronary angioplasty and stenting procedures for peripheral artery disease, stent grafting and endovascular repair for aortic aneurysms, and carotid stenting.
Why Would You Have a Stent?
Your physician may recommend you have a stent placed in a coronary artery if you have blockage in an artery of your heart. Stents also may be recommended if you have a blockage in an artery that goes to an extremity or your head.
What to Expect During Your Stent Procedure
Preparing for Your Procedure
Prior to your stent procedure, you’ll meet with your physician to discuss your medical history, medications you take and any questions you have.
Your physician will likely recommend a coronary CT angiogram to help determine that a stent is appropriate for your condition. This test involves injecting a special dye that shows up on the images to help the physician see inside your artery. Often, CT angioplasty is performed at the same time as the angiogram, and the stent placed all during a single procedure.
Do not eat or drink anything for at least eight hours prior to your procedure. Check with your physician to determine if any of your medications should be avoided for the days leading up to your procedure. Make sure to bring all of your medications, as well as any herbal or dietary supplements and over-the-counter medications, to the test with you.
You may have other diagnostic tests prior to having a stent placed, including:
- Blood tests – Studies to detect enzymes that leak into the blood when the heart has been damaged and to detect infection and antibodies.
- Chest X-ray – A radiograph or picture of the heart and lungs including blood vessels, ribs and bones of the spine.
- Electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG) – A test that records the electrical activity of the heart.
During Your Procedure
A catheter (thin, flexible tube) is inserted into the leg or arm artery during a minimally invasive procedure. You receive an injection of an anesthetic solution to numb the area where the catheter is inserted. You remain awake during the procedure but receive medication to help you relax. The catheter is advanced to the artery of interest. An angiogram may be performed to help determine if a stent is appropriate for your condition; the angiogram involves imaging and dyes to precisely locate the narrowed artery. If significant blockage is detected in the artery, a stent can be placed to open the vessel and re-establish normal blood flow.
The procedure lasts from 30 minutes to several hours, depending on the degree of blockage, number of stents to be placed and other factors. Your vital signs are monitored throughout the procedure. You may feel minimal discomfort when the numbing medication is injected.
After Your Procedure
Patients typically stay in the hospital overnight after having a stent procedure and are able to resume eating and drinking normally as soon as they want. Your physician may recommend you avoid vigorous activity for a few days afterward.
You may need to take additional medication to prevent the stent from clotting.