Stent in a blood vessel

Stents

What is a stent?

A stent is a small expandable metal mesh tube that is typically placed in a blood vessel, or sometimes in other hollow structures in the body, to keep them open.

Stents can be used in different parts of the body depending on where an obstruction occurs; for example, an oesophageal stent to ensure food can travel from the mouth to the stomach, or ureteral stents to ensure urine can follow from the kidneys to the bladder.

Stents that are used in the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart, are known as coronary stents.

What are the most common types of stents?

What heart conditions can be treated with a stent?

One of the most important times a coronary stent can be used is in those who present to hospital with a heart attack. Opening an acute blockage of a heart artery with a stent is a very effective way to stop a heart attack.

Stents can also be used in those with coronary artery disease, which is caused by the build-up of fatty plaques in the arteries, known as atherosclerosis. A stent can help to improve the flow of blood through the coronary arteries, reducing the risk of angina or heart attack.

Stents can also be used to treat an aortic aneurysm, which is a bulging in the wall of the aorta, the main artery to the body.

Stents can also be used to treat peripheral artery disease, which is when atherosclerosis causes reduced blood flow in an area other than the heart or brain, most often in the legs.

How is a stent placed in the artery?

Stents are placed in the coronary arteries through a procedure known as percutaneous coronary intervention. This procedure involves a narrow tube, known as a catheter, usually being inserted through an artery in the wrist, and passed up and into a coronary artery. The catheter has an empty balloon and a stent attached. When the balloon is inflated, it opens the artery and the stent. The stent is then left in the artery while the catheter and balloon are removed.

How a stent is placed in an artery and improves blood flow

What are the benefits of stents?

Stents are less invasive and have a shorter recovery time than other procedures, such as bypass surgery.

Stents can help to:

What are the potential risks associated with stents?

While serious complications are rare, there are potential risks associated with stent placement.

These risks may include:

People who have diabetes, heart failure, or kidney disease are at higher risk of serious complications.

What is the recovery after a stent like?

Recovery time in hospital after stent placement will depend on individual circumstances. For example, if the stent was a planned procedure, you are likely to be able to leave hospital the same or next day. If however it was an emergency stent placement for a heart attack, a longer stay time may be required.

After a stent placement, you will likely need to:

Long-term recovery may include:

How long do stents last?

A stent is designed to be permanent, however there is a small risk of narrowing reoccurring after stent placement. If this happens, a new stent may be required.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present.

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute - The Home of Heart Research for 30 Years