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What Is a Stent?
A stent is a mesh tube made of metal or sometimes fabric. It is often placed during an angioplasty procedure. An angioplasty is a deflated balloon that your surgeon will thread through your artery to the weakened or blocked area. It is then inflated to open the artery for placement of the stent. The stent safeguards the site to prevent future blockages.
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The process of replacing a stent follows the same procedure is similar to its placement. Unlike other forms of heart surgery, the stent placement procedure is non-invasive, requiring no major incisions into the body cavity. This factor aids recovery and shortens the procedure. A large artery is required to place the stent. Arteries of the groin, arm, or neck may be used. A small incision will provide a means to move the catheter into the body.
After the blockage is opened, the stent is placed at the site. Eventually, cells will cover the stent, incorporating it as part of the blood vessel.
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Recovery from the Procedure
Because a major artery is used, there are risks due to bleeding. It is vital, therefore, that bleeding at the incision site be controlled. Pressure to the site through use of weights or clamps will help stop any bleeding and allow the blood to clot.Arterial blood flow is stronger than flow through the veins. The recovery period may last several hours, confining the patient to bed rest. The stent placement procedure often only requires an overnight hospital stay
After the bleeding is under control, your doctor will likely place restrictions on your activity following your release. Your doctor may request that you restrict any strenuous activity or weightlifting. The reason for this is to prevent the incision site from opening up again until it has fully healed. These precautions will reduce the likelihood of complications following your hospital stay.
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Precautions After the Procedure
The stent is for all practical purposes, a foreign body. A risk exists that too much cell growth at the site of the stent may occur. Drug-eluting stents can prevent excessive tissue growth through medications which will prevent this from occurring.Your doctor may use radiation via a catheter to remove the tissue to prevent more invasive surgical procedures. The goal is to prevent any tissue tears which can increase the risk for infection and other complications.
Additional precautions are necessary to prevent clotting. Doctors will often prescribe daily aspirin or other anti-clotting medications such as clopidogrel, commercially sold as Plavix. These anti-coagulants increase your risk from bleeding from injuries or other surgery. Depending upon your situation, your doctor may keep you on these medications for a limited period of time or it may be part of a lifetime maintenance program.
The stent procedure offers new hope for patients with coronary artery disease, the most common form of heart disease according to the Texas Heart Institute. After your recovery, you can live a normal life and resume your regular activities, thanks to this simple procedure.
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Abbott Laboratories: The New England Journal of Medicine Publication of SPIRIT IV Trial Results Confirm Superior Safety and Efficacy of Abbott's XIENCE V® Drug Eluting Stent Compared to TAXUS – www.abbott.com
American Heart Association: Cardiac Procedures and Surgeries – www.heart.org
Drugsite Trust: Plavix
Texas Heart Institute: Balloon Angioplasty and Stents – www.texasheartinstitute.org