Cardiac stents are small, expandable tubes used to treat blockages in the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart muscle. Stents are typically made of metal (such as stainless steel or cobalt-chromium alloy) or a combination of metal and a biodegradable polymer. They are inserted into the blocked or narrowed arteries to help restore blood flow and support the arterial walls. Here’s everything you need to know about cardiac stents, including risks, alternatives, and technology:
1. Types of Stents:
– Bare Metal Stents (BMS): These stents are made of metal and provide structural support to keep the artery open.
– Drug-Eluting Stents (DES): These stents have a coating that slowly releases medication (such as an anti-proliferative drug) to prevent restenosis (re-narrowing) of the artery.
– Bioresorbable Vascular Scaffold (BVS) or Bioresorbable Stents: These stents are made of a biodegradable material that eventually dissolves, leaving behind a healed artery. They gradually release drugs to prevent restenosis.
2. Stent Placement Procedure:
The placement of a cardiac stent involves a minimally invasive procedure called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) or angioplasty. During the procedure:
– A catheter is inserted into a blood vessel, usually in the groin or wrist.
– The catheter is guided to the blocked coronary artery using X-ray imaging.
– A deflated balloon is then advanced to the blockage site and inflated to widen the artery.
– Once the artery is widened, the stent is inserted and expanded using the balloon.
– The balloon is deflated and removed, leaving the stent in place to support the artery.
3. Risks and Complications:
– Stent Thrombosis: Blood clot formation inside or near the stent, which can lead to a heart attack or other cardiac events.
– Restenosis: The re-narrowing of the treated artery, which may require additional procedures.
– Infection or Bleeding at the insertion site.
– Allergic reactions to stent materials or medications.
– Artery damage during stent placement.
– Rare complications such as aneurysm or perforation of the artery.
4. Alternatives to Stenting:
– Medications: Depending on the severity of the blockage, medication therapy alone may be sufficient to manage the condition.
– Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG): In cases of severe blockages or multiple affected arteries, open-heart surgery may be recommended to bypass the blocked arteries using grafts.
– Lifestyle Changes: Adopting a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and smoking cessation, can help improve heart health and manage arterial blockages.
5. Advancements in Stent Technology:
– Bioabsorbable Stents: These stents are designed to dissolve over time, potentially reducing the risk of long-term complications associated with permanent stents.
– Drug-Coated Stents: These stents release medications to prevent restenosis and have significantly reduced the need for repeat procedures compared to bare metal stents.
– Bioengineered Stents: Ongoing research focuses on developing stents with advanced materials or coatings that promote faster healing and better compatibility with the body.
It’s important to note that the selection of the most appropriate treatment, including stenting, is based on individual patient factors, the extent and location of blockages, and the judgment of the healthcare professional.