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Cardiac stent placement is used to help hold open an artery and improve blood flow to the heart. Prior to a cardiac stent placement, the patient is prepared for the procedure with proper medications. During the procedure, physicians use a catheter to insert a cardiac stent into the artery. At the conclusion of the cardiac stent placement, a patient will need to follow specific medication and lifestyle guidelines to ensure success.
Various conditions can lead to a blocked coronary artery and the need for cardiac stent placement. This includes atherosclerosis, which is caused by fat and cholesterol build-up in the artery. More severe or multiple coronary blockages may require bypass surgery.
Cardiac stents are typically made of wire mesh. They can be drug-eluting or bare metal stents. Drug-eluting stents release drugs over time to help prevent the artery from reclosing. When placed in the artery, stents adhere to the side of the blood vessel. Over time the stent becomes a part of the artery wall as the wall of the artery begins to grow around the stent.
Preparation is necessary prior to the placement of a cardiac stent. Physicians use pain medications and mild sedation medications to help patients cope with any pain and anxiety related to the procedure. Patients will typically remain awake for this procedure. Blood thinners may be given to the patient to help prevent clotting during and immediately following the procedure.
The procedure begins with the insertion of a catheter. Doctors insert the catheter into an artery in the groin, arm, or leg. The catheter is then fed along the artery and into the specific coronary artery needing a stent. Surgeons use x-rays and a dye to allow them to visualize the movement and path of the catheter and ensure correct placement of the stent.
A balloon is at the terminal end of the catheter and is used to place the stent. This procedure is medically known as an angioplasty. Once the surgeon has reached the narrowed or blocked area of the artery, the balloon is expanded. This expansion allows the stent to adhere to the artery wall and keep the artery open once the catheter is removed.
Specific care is required after a cardiac stent placement. This includes the need to take blood thinners as prescribed. Doctors may prescribe prescription blood thinners, such as clopidogrel, or aspirin. Patients should also avoid exposure to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests for a minimum of four weeks unless a cardiologist orders one.