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If you have a blocked artery in your heart, legs, or neck, you may need a stent to keep your blood flowing to prevent serious problems. Let’s talk today about stents.

A stent is a tiny tube we place in an artery, blood vessel, or other duct (such as the one that carries urine) to hold the tubes open. A stent is left in permanently. Most stents are made of metal or plastic mesh-like material. Stent grafts made of fabric are often used in larger arteries. 

Stents are used to treat a variety of artery and other problems. Your doctor will make a small cut in a blood vessel in your groin and thread a thin, flexible tube called a catheter to the place in your body where you need a stent.

In the heart, a fatty substance called plaque can build up inside the coronary arteries. Plaque narrows the arteries, reducing the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart. One stent, called an intraluminal coronary artery stent, is a small, self-expanding, metal mesh-like tube that is placed inside a coronary artery after balloon angiography. This stent prevents the artery from re-closing. Another stent is coated with medicine that helps further prevent an artery from re-closing.

In the carotid arteries, which are on both sides of your neck, plaque can build up and slow the flow of blood to your brain. Stents can keep the carotid arteries open.

Stents can also open up narrow arteries in your legs caused by peripheral arteriole disease.  They’re also used to treat an abdominal aortic aneurysm, which is when the large blood vessel that supplies blood to your abdomen, pelvis, and legs becomes abnormally large and balloons.

After a stent procedure, your doctor will probably recommend that you take aspirin and another anti-clotting medication to prevent blood clots from forming in the stent. Make sure that you talk to your doctor, before getting a stent, about the risks associated with placing a stent to treat your condition, such as tissue growing around the area where the stent was placed.


Review Date: 11/16/2011
Reviewed By: Mitchell W. Hecht, MD FACP, Internal Medicine private practice in Roswell, GA; author of the nationally-syndicated medical column 'Ask Dr. H.' Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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