A stent is an expandable metal coil—sometimes coated with a drug that is released over time—that a cardiologist places in a blocked blood vessel to prevent it from becoming blocked again. If your cardiologist determines that you need a stent, they’ll most likely place it during a cardiac catheterization.
Your cardiologist uses imaging (X-rays) and dyes to precisely locate any narrowed areas in your blood vessels. If they find narrowed areas, the cardiologist then places a stent. The X-rays and dyes also help to ensure proper stent placement. The cardiologist places the stent on a balloon catheter (thin tube) and threads it to the narrowed artery. The cardiologist inflates the balloon, then deflates and removes it, leaving the stent in place within your artery. Ohio State's interventional cardiology services include the latest techniques in stent procedures performed by heart and vascular surgeons, right here in Columbus.
Your cardiologist may recommend placing a stent in a coronary artery if you have blockage in an artery of your heart. Your cardiologist may also recommend stents if you have a blockage in an artery that goes to an extremity (arm or leg) or your head.
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, your cardiologist will perform CT angioplasty at the same time as the angiogram, and places the stent during a single procedure.
Don’t eat or drink anything for at least eight hours prior to your procedure. Check with your physician to determine if you should stop taking any of your medications in 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
Your heart specialist inserts a catheter (a thin, flexible tube) into your leg or arm artery during a minimally invasive procedure. You receive an injection of an anesthetic solution to numb the area where your heart specialist inserts the catheter. You remain awake during the procedure but receive medication to help you relax. Your heart specialist advances the catheter to the artery of interest. Your doctor may perform an angiogram to help determine if a stent is appropriate for your condition; the angiogram involves imaging and dyes to precisely locate the narrowed artery. If your doctor detects significant blockage in the artery, they can place a stent 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 surgical team will monitor your vital signs throughout the procedure. You may feel minimal discomfort when you receive the injection of the numbing medication.
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. Cardiac rehabilitation should not be required.
You may need to take additional medication to prevent the stent from clotting.