Artery blockages can be alleviated using a stent. A stent is a small metal mesh device inserted into the artery during a special procedure, performed under sedation. An interventional cardiologist performs procedures using stents. The most common use of a stent to open is to prevent heart attack. Inserting a stent into the artery improves blood flow. Stenting for a blocked artery is usually performed during a cardiac catheterisation, in a cardiac cath lab.
How a Stent Opens a Blocked Artery
Placing a stent is not always possible for a blocked artery. During a stent procedure, a catheter, using a guide wire, delivers the stent to the area of blockage. The catheter has a balloon on the end that inflates, pushing the stent open and widening the artery. The stent is then left in place to provide sustained improvement of blood flow.
Common Uses of a Stent
Common uses of a stent to open a blocked artery include in the coronary artery or arteries, leg, kidney and carotid (neck) arteries.
Inserting a stent for a blocked heart (coronary) artery is often performed during a procedure called an angioplasty. A stent may also have a drug coating to prevent recurrence of a blocked artery. A drug-coated stent is referred to as a drug eluting stent. The arteries of the neck can become blocked from fatty plaque (atherosclerosis). A stent can open a blocked artery in the neck. Carotid artery stenting is also combined with angioplasty. A blocked leg artery (femoral artery) can also be opened using a stent, to treat a condition known as peripheral artery disease (PAD), but the benefit may be limited, according to the Cochrane Collaboration. If your renal (kidney) artery becomes blocked and narrow, the result can be untreatable high blood pressure and kidney failure. A stent can be used to open a blocked kidney artery.
Even though a stent can open a blocked artery, the blockage can recur. Many patients take blood thinners to prevent blood clots in the artery.
During a procedure to open a blocked artery with a stent, there is a small risk of blood vessel rupture and bleeding. Stents inserted into the coronary artery can result in heart attack during the procedure---again the risk is slight. A stent is less invasive than having surgery, which also carries risks. It is important to discuss the best way to open a blocked artery with your physician---in some cases surgery may be a better option than having a stent placed.