Angioplasty Stent

A stent is somewhat similar to an ordinary spring. They are very small and inflatable tubes made of metal mesh. A stent is used in a balloon angioplasty procedure. After a blocked artery gets opened, a stent may be placed inside the artery permanently to ensure a smooth flow of blood. A stent can be easily expanded and stretched to fit the size, shape, and bend of the opened artery. An implanted stent takes about a month to get completely covered by the natural tissue.

Stents cannot be used in all the cases of angioplasty because they are difficult to mould across tight bends in blood arteries that are badly clogged with plaque. Then also, it is estimated that today stents are inserted in almost 50-75% of all heart surgery cases.

There are mainly two types of stents that are commonly used, bare-metal stents (BMS) and drug eluting stents (DES). A bare-metal stent is coated whereas DES is uncoated. DES is also known as a drug-coated stent.

Bare-metal stents were introduced in the U.S. in 1994. With the advancement in technology and research, the quality of the stents is improving and its cost is decreasing steadily. They provide structural support to avoid any further blockage in the artery. However, statistics state that in nearly 25% of the cases, the arteries get re-blocked even after placing the stent. This generally happens when the patient does not take necessary precautions prescribed by the doctor and continue to follow an unhealthy lifestyle.

A drug-coated stent is a bare-metal stent with a coating of a special drug. It has the same purpose as that of the BMS to keep the artery open after angioplasty. However, the special coating avoids clogging for a longer period of time. Therefore, in about 7% of the cases, the arteries get clogged again with the use of these stents. This shows that BMS are better than DES.

Despite a clear difference in the effectiveness, both the stents are considered safe in an angioplasty surgery. They also lower the risk of heart attack in the future. However, one has to take some precautions after the insertion of stents. For example, one should avoid strenuous exercise or any other sort of physical exertion like climbing up the stairs. There are certain risks associated while implanting stents. It may lead to an infection, coronary vessel damage, blood clots, allergic reactions, and even death in rare cases.

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