A stent graft is a medical procedure in which a synthetic tube is placed into the body as a way of encouraging the flow of blood through the arteries. They are predominantly used in endovascular surgery, which addresses issues relating to the major blood vessels of the body; abdominal aortic aneurysm treatment is the most common type of endovascular surgery entailing stent grafting. A tube-shaped, fabric-covered stent is utilized in the majority of stent grafting procedures.
During a stent graft, a small incision is made in the groin area. From there, the device is inserted into the aortic aneurysm — a ballooning of the main artery in the abdominal cavity — by means of a catheter, which delivers the stent to the appropriate location in the abdomen. Once in place, the stent is opened and creates a new, artificial channel through which blood can flow, greatly reducing the risk of the aneurysm rupturing. This artificial channel is sometimes referred to as a false lumen.
A stent graft is considered a significantly less invasive surgery than older types of treatment for abdominal aortic aneurysm. Other surgeries accomplished this same goal of lessening pressure on the aortic wall and redirecting blood flow, but they were commonly major operations requiring a large incision in the belly. Older procedures also necessitated the clamping of the aorta during the grafting, and this places a huge strain on the heart, making these surgeries less than ideal for patients with heart conditions.
The recovery time for a stent graft is typically one or two days in the hospital, followed by two weeks of rest at home. Within a matter of weeks, most patients have resumed their normal activity levels. Since there are no major incisions with this type of procedure, recovering from a stent graft is a fairly smooth and generally pain-free process.
A stent graft might not be the right treatment for every patient. The technology that created stent grafting is considered relatively new, and no long-term studies have been conducted on the durability of the graft over the long run. If a patient is young, doctors may advise against this procedure since the long-term results are unknown.
Another consideration in stent grafting is the fact that the grafts are only manufactured in predetermined sizes. This means that they will not fit into the abdomens of all patients, and there are no customizable options. Larger patients or patients with unusually shaped abdomens may not be able to reap the benefits of a stent graft.