Having heart stents placed is a very common procedure in cases where a physician feels it can be a better solution for weak, narrowing or block cardiac arteries than the more invasive Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG), also known as heart bypass surgery. Arteries are large blood veins that take blood with oxygen away from the heart to all other parts of the body. Aging and heart disease can cause these arteries to become weak, which can lead to a stroke or death; narrowed from a build-up of plaque knows are arteriosclerosis, or blocked completely by the same plaque that can lead to a heart attack or possibly, death. Plaque is a waxy substance that builds up inside coronary arteries and adheres to the walls of the artery and as well as itself. The need for this procedure, as well as the success of the procedure once it is completed, can be determined through a cardiac stress test. The most commonly performed version of this test is the exercise stress test. During this test, you walk on a treadmill while a physician or his staff closely monitors all of your heart and breathing functions. The intensity of the exercise increases in intervals by the technician performing the test, once you reach the maximum heart rate, and blood pressure your physician has determined, the test stops.
Stents are small mesh tubes inserted inside a cardiac artery through a procedure known as angioplasty. One or more stents are placed in one or multiple arteries, depending on the severity and nature of the problem requiring surgical intervention. The angioplasty procedure consists of a thin, flexible tube with a small balloon and metal or fabric stent on the end, inserted through a large blood vessel, usually in the groin, arm or neck. Once the balloon is in place, it is inflated pushing the stent against the wall of the artery and widening it, restoring blood flow and resolving any heart related symptoms. Fabric heart stents, also called stent grafts, are for larger arteries, while metal stents are the most commonly used. No matter which type is used, they are available with a coating of medicine that slowly releases into the artery to decrease the risk of another blockage forming. A stent can support the inner wall for months to years after placed during angioplasty. Even after stent placement, there is still a 10 to 20% chance of the artery becoming narrow or blocked within a year after angioplasty. If no intervention occurs with stent placement, the risk doubles.
As with any type of surgery, there is a recovery period and this is no different for heart stent recovery. After the procedure and the catheter removed, the nurse or other staff will bandage the insertion point. After bandaging, a small sandbag or other similar type of weight is placed on the area to apply pressure and prevent any bleeding. You will recover in an area where you are closely monitored and your movement limited. Once the staff feels that you have successfully recovered from the procedure, you are discharged. You are not allowed to drive, climb stairs or do any lifting for a few days, but after that, your activity can return to normal if you do not encounter any complications and your physician feels you fit to return to normal activity. Complications include a large amount of bleeding or unusual pain, redness or other signs of infection at the insertion site. A small bruise and sometimes a “knot” will appear where the tube at the insertion site; this area may feel sore for about a week, this is perfectly normal after the procedure. After insertion of metal stents, you cannot have any MRI procedures done, but you should not affect metal detectors in any way.
After you have completely healed from the procedure, your physician will likely prescribe aspirin or another anti-clotting medication to prevent clots from forming in the stent. Some of the heart stent side effects are more common to the angioplasty procedure than the stents themselves. A side effect of the stent itself can be that too much tissue growth occurs at the stent placement point, this can cause narrowing or blocking of the artery. Some of the side effects relating to the insertion itself include bleeding from the insertion site and damage to the blood vessel from the catheter. Other side effects are arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats), and allergic reaction to the dye used during the procedure, or even kidney damage caused by the dye. As with any surgical procedure, there also is a risk of infection, therefore any fever above 100.0 degrees F (38 degrees C) should be reported to your physician immediately. You are provided with suggestions to change your lifestyle such as quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet and maintaining an exercise program. All these factors play a part in how successful your procedure will be.
Heart stent manufacturers are worldwide, but all products must me the strict criteria set forth by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) if they are available for use in the United States. Abbott Laboratories in the United States produces some of the most superior stents available and hold the title for the best-selling stents in the medical community. The use of their stents has been studied and their use has been associated with both one-year and two-year milestones of heart attack prevention. Boston Scientific, also in the United States, is also a large manufacturer of stents that also hold solid two-year success in heart attack prevention. The FDA assures safety and efficacy of all stents that are manufactured and available for use in the United States.
Modern medicine has made procedures such as angioplasty and stent insertion one of the safest and most beneficial procedures for those with heart disease. How long heart stents will last is not an exact science, but with the FDA assuring their safety and efficacy, and the patient complying with suggestions from their physician, it can mean years of healthy living. No medical procedure is a miracle, but there are those that can give a patient a longer, healthier and more enjoyable life. If your doctor suggests angioplasty and heart stents to correct any cardiac issues you may have, rest assured that you will be receiving a quality product as well as the key to a longer, more enjoyable life; you just need to do your part after the physician does his.