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What is a Stent: Understanding Angioplasty’s Most Important Tool

What is a Stent: Understanding Angioplasty’s Most Important Tool

A timely angioplasty, despite its risks, has immense benefits which can prove life-saving for someone with heart disease. One extremely important component of the angioplasty procedure is a stent. The immediate question that you may have in mind is: What is a stent? That’s where we come with easy explanations that’ll make it possible for you to pose the right questions about the angioplasty procedure, should you or a loved one ever need one.

What is a stent?

A stent is a small tube that is an essential part of an angioplasty procedure. It is a tool made from wire and mesh, which enables the surgeon to prop open the coronary artery and leave the stent in place within the body.

The coronary artery is the nerve, which feeds oxygen to the heart. A stroke or attack usually happens when the supply is cut off due to the narrowing of the arteries. This happens due to the build-up of fatty acids, also known as plaque.

The angioplasty stent thus reduces further chances of heart attack by widening the arteries and allowing the blood to flow through freely.

A stent is usually inserted into the artery by using a catheter, which the stent locks in place after expansion. The expansion reduces the plaque which has been blocking the vessel. After the lockdown, the balloon catheter is deflated and taken out, as the stent remains inside.

So what is a stent made of?

It is natural to be curious about the components of a wire which is going to stay inside your body for a while. In most cases, a stent is made of wire and mesh, some can even be made of fabric. However, some of the stents are made of metals and materials that may dissolve in your body over a specific period of time. These stents are also layered with medicines.

While inserting a stent, the procedure undertaken is called angioplasty.

Importance of a stent

After asking, “what is a stent?” and knowing the components from which it is made, the next question should be on the importance of stent. What is it that makes a tiny wire play such a vital role in saving one of the most important organs in the human body? Let’s find out.

Stents are used to expand the artery passage which becomes narrow due to the formation of plaque: a fatty material made of cholesterol and other substances, which attaches to the vessel’s walls.

A stent is needed because angioplasty is usually an emergency procedure, due to the importance of the time element involved. If a person is suffering from a heart attack, an angioplasty done via a stent at the earliest can increase the chances of saving the patient’s life.

However, the question of ‘what is a stent’ needs further explanation.

Another thing that charts out the importance of stents is their ability to deal with aneurysms. A stent can prevent the artery walls from weakening, thus reducing the chances of aneurysms rupture.

A stent is not only useful in angioplasty where it helps open up the coronary artery. It can also be used to open other blood vessels which have been blocked, such as the following:

  • Bronchi: lung airways
  • Bile ducts: tubes that carry bile to and from the digestive system, and
  • Ureters: the vessel that is responsible for transferring urine to the bladder.

The importance of stent can also be gauged from the fact that it has a better rate of recovery than the traditional bypass surgery.

What are the types of stents?

Yes, even though it is a small wire, there are various types of stents. From the ones which are coated with drugs to the plain metal ones, there are different types of stents available.

Depending on the pros and cons they offer, along with the risk factors in the patient involved, it is decided which type of stent will be used in angioplasty.

Let’s take a look at the various types of stents:

Drug-Eluting Stent

This stent is coated with a medication that is eluted or released with the aim of preventing scar tissue growth in the lining of the artery. This ensures that the artery passage remains open for a smooth flow of blood.

However, this stent can increase the chances of a blood clot. Also, the healing process is slower, thus, the patients have to adhere to the strict instructions of their doctor.

Bio-engineered Stent

Also known as antibody-coated stent, it neither uses polymer nor any drug. Instead, it helps escalate the healing process by speeding up the artery cell lining, also known as the process of endothelialization.

The antibody coating on this type of stent attracts the bone marrow cells from the body which speeds up the formation of the endothelium. This reduces the risk of blood clots.

Dual Therapy Stent

Combining the best of bio-engineering and DES and coated with active healing technology is the dual therapy stent (DTS). This one has a double coating which reduces inflammation, blood clots, helps in healing the artery. Its bioresorbable polymer is designed to degrade over time.

Bare Metal

These are mostly stainless steel stents, which serve as scaffolding to hold the arteries open while performing angioplasty and then locking it in place for the artery to heal. However, the risk of blockage may still persist if the tissue overgrows around the stent.

Bioresorbable Vascular Scaffold

This is a type of stent which is mostly coated in a drug that is released from a polymer that disappears over time and reduces the risk of re-narrowing of the artery. However, there is no active healing formula.

So why are stents important? In a nutshell, these are just small tubes responsible for saving your life, in the case of a heart attack that threatens to especially. Stents are small but extremely beneficial.

Do you know any other benefits of a stent or any other types of the stent which we may have inadvertently missed out on? Let us know in the comments.

Learn more about managing heart disease here.

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Sources

What is a Stent? / https://www.heart.org/-/media/data-import/downloadables/1/1/4/what-is-a-stent.pdf / Accessed on September 14, 2021

When do you need a heart stent? / https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/when-do-you-need-a-heart-stent Accessed on September 14, 2021

Coronary Stents 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507804/ Accessed on September 14, 2021

Angioplasty and Stent Placement – Heart

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007473.htm Accessed on September 14, 2021

Coronary Angioplasty and Stents

https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/coronary-angioplasty/about/pac-20384761 Accessed on September 14, 2021

Angioplasty and Stent Placement for the Heart

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/angioplasty-and-stent-placement-for-the-heart Accessed on September 14, 2021

Coronary angioplasty and stent insertion

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronary-angioplasty/ Accessed on September 14, 2021

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Written by Nikita Bhalla Updated 5 days ago
Fact Checked by Bianchi Mendoza, R.N.
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