What is it?
A stent is an expandable cylindrical device, usually made of mesh, which is inserted within a vessel or duct to keep the passageway open and to preserve its shape and functionality.
Stents are made with elastic or bioabsorbable materials, which makes their insertion less traumatic for the blood vessels and guarantees that they are not rejected by the body.
What is it for?
A stent is usually inserted in case of coronary diseases - especially when the medication is not successful any longer, the condition is not as severe as to require a vascular bypass.
Stenting can also be helpful for treating an aneurysm affecting the aorta (the main artery of the human body): an excessive dilation of the aorta can cause an internal haemorrhage.
This procedure is not particularly suitable for pulmonary veins, if there is an excessive narrowing, if there is more than one obstruction in the same vein, or if the cardiac muscle is already damaged.
What happens during the procedure?
The stenting procedure is minimally invasive, and is carried out under local anaesthetic. The process is constantly monitored and guided with X-ray video.
By making a small incision on the femoral artery, the catheter and a small wire equipped with a balloon is delivered to the affected section of artery. The surgeon will then inflate the balloon, expanding the stent and consequently clearing the passageway, thus restoring the normal blood flow. Once the stent has been placed, the catheter and the balloon will be removed.
Under certain circumstances, a dual-therapy stent may be used. That is a drug-releasing stent which can prevent excessive cellular growth such as restenosis, which can be a complication.
Which doctor should I talk to?
If you need to have a stenting procedure, you should see a heart surgeon.