Unlike bypass surgery, placement of a heart stent is considered minimally invasive- it doesn’t involve major incisions and can be performed with local anesthesia or under mild sedation. According to the CDC, almost half-million Americans undergo the procedure each year.
“Yes, it’s a very common procedure that can be extremely useful in certain circumstances. It can be done either through an artery in the leg or an artery in the wrist - the radial artery,” says Dr. Richard Chazal, a cardiologist with Lee Memorial Health System.
Chances are you or someone you know has had - or will have - one.
Used to open blockages in the arteries that lead to the heart, “It almost looks like the little
spring,” says Dr. Chazal.
Stents are inserted through a catheter, once an angioplasty has cleared the way.
“In the setting of a heart attack this is unbelievably effective therapy that is life saving and muscle saving. So it can actually prevent you from dying, it can prevent you from having disability,” says Dr. Chazal.
Quickly opening the artery is the fastest way to stop a heart attack. But many times a stent is put in to alleviate ongoing symptoms.
“People who are having severe angina, that is discomfort brought on by narrowing or blockage that can’t be treated or prevented with medication, we know that stenting can be tremendously helpful,” says Dr. Chazal.
While stenting revolutionized the treatment of cardiovascular conditions, some question whether it’s overused. Doctors find it is a constant balancing act.
“In the past when we thought narrowing meant that one had to have a stent,” says Dr. Chazal. “We now realize that in a stable patient, medical therapy is a reasonable alternative.”
New generations include drug eluting stents meant to prevent future clotting and absorbable stents that disappear after use.
Given all of these benefits, cardiac stents have staying power.