What Is a Stent?

When it comes to treating various cardiovascular conditions such as coronary artery disease, blocked arteries, and atherosclerosis, a medical device known as a stent plays a crucial role in cardiology. But what exactly is a stent?

In simple terms, a stent is a small, tube-like device that is inserted into blood vessels to help keep them open and restore proper blood flow. Stents are often used in conjunction with medical procedures such as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) and angiography to address blockages and improve overall cardiovascular health.

In this article, we will explore the different types of stents, including bare metal stents (BMS), drug-eluting stents (DES), bioabsorbable stents, and stent grafts. We will delve into how these stents work and the procedures involved in stent placement, as well as their benefits, risks, and alternatives.

What Are the Different Types of Stent?

Stents come in various forms, each designed to address specific medical needs in the field of cardiology and other healthcare specialties.

Bare Metal Stents (BMS)

These stents consist of a metal mesh tube, usually made of stainless steel or cobalt-chromium alloy. During a stent placement procedure, a cardiologist or a specialized healthcare provider inserts the BMS into a narrowed artery to help prop it open and improve blood flow.

Once in place, the stent acts as a scaffold, preventing the artery from collapsing and promoting healthy blood flow. However, it's important to note that bare metal stents have a higher risk of restenosis, which is the re-narrowing of the treated artery over time.

Drug-Eluting Stents (DES)

To address the issue of restenosis, drug-eluting stents (DES) were developed. These stents are coated with medication, such as antiplatelet drugs like clopidogrel, ticagrelor, or prasugrel.

The drugs are gradually released from the stent into the surrounding tissue, helping to inhibit cell growth and reduce the chances of restenosis. The use of drug-eluting stents has significantly reduced restenosis rates compared to bare metal stents.

Bioabsorbable Stents

Unlike traditional stents, bioabsorbable stents are designed to gradually dissolve and be absorbed by the body over time. These stents are made of materials that break down naturally, reducing the long-term presence of a foreign object in the blood vessel or other structures.

While bioabsorbable stents offer potential benefits such as reduced inflammation and the restoration of vessel flexibility, they are not suitable for all cases and are still being studied for their long-term effectiveness.

Stent Grafts

Stent grafts, also known as endovascular stent grafts, are specialized stents used to treat conditions like aneurysms or blockages in larger blood vessels.

These devices are particularly useful for reinforcing weakened artery walls, redirecting blood flow, and preventing aneurysms from rupturing. Stent grafts consist of a fabric tube supported by a metal wire mesh structure and are commonly used in cardiology and other fields.

How Are Stents Placed?

Stents play a vital role in restoring and maintaining healthy blood flow in various parts of the body. Whether it's the coronary arteries supplying the heart muscle or peripheral arteries in the legs, the mechanism of stents remains similar.

The placement of a stent involves a well-coordinated procedure that aims to restore blood flow and improve overall cardiovascular health.

Let's explore the steps typically involved in a stent placement procedure.

1. Preparation

Before the stent procedure begins, it’s important to ensure that you are well-prepared and informed about the process. A cardiologist or specially trained healthcare provider will take the time to explain the details of the procedure and address any questions or concerns you may have.

Depending on your healthcare provider's instructions, you may need to refrain from eating or drinking for a few hours before the procedure to ensure accurate results. Once you’re ready to proceed, you’ll be comfortably positioned on an examination table in the procedure room.

2. Anesthesia and Sedation

To ensure your maximum comfort throughout the procedure, your doctor may administer various forms of anesthesia for sedation. Local anesthesia is typically applied to numb the incision site, minimizing any potential discomfort.

Additionally, sedatives may be given to help you relax and feel at ease during the procedure. In some cases, your doctor may use general anesthesia, rendering you unconscious for the duration of the stent placement procedure.

3. Accessing the Blood Vessel

Before the stent can be placed, your healthcare provider will need to carefully identify a suitable blood vessel for the intravenous insertion of the catheter (a flexible, hollow, and thin tube).

Common access points include the groin or wrist, and the chosen area will be thoroughly cleaned and sterilized. Sterile drapes will be used to maintain a sterile environment and minimize the risk of infection.

4. Inserting the Catheter

Once the access point is prepared, your healthcare provider will use a needle to access the chosen blood vessel. Following this, a guide wire will be inserted to provide a path for the catheter.

The catheter will be carefully threaded over the guidewire and advanced to the treatment site. Throughout this process, your doctor may use imaging techniques such as X-rays and angiograms to guide the precise placement of the catheter.

5. Angioplasty and Stent Placement

When the catheter reaches the narrowed or blocked area, the balloon at its tip will be inflated. This inflation creates pressure against the artery walls, widening them and restoring blood flow in a procedure known as angioplasty.

In some cases, the balloon effect alone may be sufficient to address the blockage. However, in most instances, a stent placement will be deemed necessary.

The stent, typically compressed on a balloon, will be carefully positioned within the treated area. As the balloon is inflated, the stent expands, attaching itself securely to the artery walls. This fixation ensures that the artery remains open and unobstructed.

In the case of drug-eluting stents, medication is gradually released from the stent to help prevent cell growth and the recurrence of blockages.

6. Post-Procedure Evaluation

Following the stent placement, the healthcare provider will evaluate the blood flow through the treated artery.

Additional angiograms or X-rays may be performed to ensure the optimal placement and effectiveness of the stent. These evaluations are crucial in assessing the success of the procedure and determining the appropriate next steps in your treatment plan.

7. Recovery

After the procedure, you’ll be moved to a recovery area where healthcare professionals will closely monitor your vital signs and overall condition. It’s common to experience some soreness or discomfort at the incision site, but any pain can be managed with appropriate pain medications.

In most cases, patients can expect to be discharged on the same day, allowing them to recover in the comfort of their own homes. However, depending on the complexity of the procedure or individual circumstances, a short hospital stay may be necessary.

It’s essential that you properly follow your healthcare provider's post-procedure instructions carefully to ensure a smooth recovery.

8. Outlook

Over time, the body's natural healing process takes place, and a layer of cells covers the stent, incorporating it into the vessel wall. This integration provides ongoing support and prevents the artery from narrowing again, maintaining healthy blood flow.

You’ll need to routinely follow up with your healthcare provider to closely monitor the long-term effectiveness of the stent and address any potential concerns that may arise. With proper care and adherence to a heart-healthy lifestyle, stents can significantly improve cardiovascular health and quality of life.

Why Would You Need a Stent?

Stents are recommended in situations where there is a significant blockage or narrowing in the blood vessels, which can impede proper blood flow.

Here are a few common reasons why you might require a stent:

  • Coronary artery disease: If you have coronary artery disease, which is the buildup of plaque in the arteries supplying the heart muscle, a coronary stent may be necessary to address the blockages and restore blood flow.
  • Peripheral artery disease: Peripheral artery disease occurs when there is reduced blood flow in the arteries outside the heart, most often affecting the legs. Stents can be used to treat narrow or blocked peripheral arteries, helping alleviate symptoms.
  • Carotid artery disease: Stents can be utilized to manage carotid artery disease, where the arteries in the neck supplying blood to the brain become narrowed or blocked. This condition can increase the risk of stroke.
  • Aneurysms and vascular abnormalities: Stents can also be employed in the treatment of aneurysms and other vascular abnormalities, which are weakened areas of blood vessel walls that can potentially rupture.

What Are the Benefits of Stents?

Stents offer several benefits for individuals with cardiovascular conditions, often helping improve their quality of life and reduce the risk of further complications. Let's explore some of the key advantages of stent placement.

Improved Blood Flow

One of the primary benefits of stents is the restoration of blood flow in narrowed or blocked arteries. By widening the affected blood vessels, stents allow for the efficient delivery of oxygen and nutrients to vital organs and tissues.

Improved blood flow is crucial in reducing symptoms of the many types of heart disease and enhancing overall cardiovascular health.

Symptom Relief

Stents play a significant role in relieving symptoms associated with blocked arteries.

For instance, in coronary artery disease, stent placement can alleviate chest pain (angina) by ensuring that the heart muscle receives an adequate blood supply. Similarly, in peripheral artery disease, stents can help reduce leg pain, cramping, and difficulty walking, allowing individuals to engage in daily activities with greater ease.

Prevention of Complications

By addressing blockages and narrowing in the blood vessels, stents help reduce the risk of complications associated with cardiovascular conditions.

For example, in coronary artery disease, stent placement can lower the chances of a heart attack by promoting blood flow to the heart muscle. Stents in peripheral arteries can prevent the progression of the disease and reduce the risk of complications such as non-healing wounds or limb amputations.

Minimally Invasive Procedure

Stent placement procedures are generally considered minimally invasive compared to traditional surgical interventions. They typically involve smaller incisions, reduced scarring, shorter hospital stays, and quicker recovery times.

The less invasive nature of stent placement often leads to a more comfortable experience for patients.

What Are the Risks of Stents?

While stents offer significant benefits, like any medical procedure, they carry some inherent risks. It's essential to be aware of the potential complications associated with stent placement.

Here are some of the risks:

  • Blood clots: There is a risk of blood clots forming within the stent or the treated artery. To mitigate this risk, healthcare providers often prescribe antiplatelet medications such as clopidogrel, ticagrelor, or prasugrel.
  • Restenosis: In some cases, excessive cell growth within the stent can cause the artery to narrow again. To minimize the risk of restenosis, drug-eluting stents that release medication over time are often used.
  • Allergic reactions: While rare, some individuals may experience allergic reactions to the materials used in stents or the medications prescribed after the procedure.
  • Infection or bleeding: As with any invasive procedure, there is a small risk of infection or bleeding at the site of the incision or catheter insertion.
  • Other complications: In rare cases, other complications such as blood vessel damage, heart rhythm abnormalities, kidney problems, or stroke may occur. However, these risks are generally low and are carefully managed by experienced healthcare providers.

Alternatives to Stent Placement

While stent placement is a commonly performed and highly effective procedure for improving blood flow in narrowed or blocked arteries, there are alternative treatment options available depending on individual circumstances. Let's explore some of the alternatives to stent placement.


In certain cases, medication alone may be sufficient to manage the symptoms and reduce the risk of complications associated with cardiovascular conditions. Medications such as antiplatelet drugs, beta-blockers, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and blood pressure medications can help control symptoms, lower the risk of blood clots, and improve overall cardiovascular health.

Lifestyle Modifications

Adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle can have a significant impact on cardiovascular health.

Lifestyle modifications, such as a balanced and heart-healthy diet, stress management, smoking cessation, weight management, and regular physical activity, can help reduce the progression of arterial disease and improve overall well-being.

If you’re looking to incorporate lifestyle changes into your routine, do so with the help of Carda Health. Our at-home cardiac rehab program is designed to help you develop a healthy diet and exercise regimen to support heart health from the comfort of your home. Our clinical exercise physiologists will be with you every step of the way to answer questions, give advice, and monitor your progress.

Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery

In cases where multiple arteries are severely blocked, or the heart muscle is significantly compromised, coronary artery bypass surgery may be recommended. This surgical procedure involves creating new pathways for blood flow by using blood vessels from other parts of the body to bypass the blocked or narrowed arteries.

Coronary artery bypass surgery is typically reserved for complex cases and requires a thorough evaluation by a cardiovascular surgeon.


Balloon Angioplasty

Balloon angioplasty, also known as percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA), is a procedure similar to stent placement. However, instead of inserting a stent, a balloon catheter is used to widen the narrowed artery.

This procedure can be effective in some cases, but there is a higher risk of restenosis compared to stent placement. In certain situations, a balloon angioplasty may be performed as a temporary measure before a definitive treatment plan is established.

The Bottom Line

Stent placement is a common and effective intervention for restoring blood flow in narrowed or blocked arteries. By widening the affected blood vessels, stents help alleviate symptoms, improve overall cardiovascular health, and reduce the risk of complications.

Ultimately, the goal of stent placement and alternative treatments is to optimize blood flow, reduce symptoms, and improve your quality of life. By working closely with your healthcare provider and following their recommendations, you can take proactive steps towards maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system and enjoying a fulfilling life.

If you’ve recently undergone a stent placement procedure and are looking for a cost-effective way to rehabilitate, then contact us at Carda Health today. By joining our community, you’ll be receiving more than just a rehab service — you’ll be entering the watchful eye of professionals dedicated to enhancing your quality of life. Our primary goal is to support your heart and lungs so that you can live life to the fullest.


What Are Stents? | NHLBI

Restenosis: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment | Cleveland Clinic

Antiplatelet Medications | NCBI Bookshelf

Endovascular Stent Graft Repair | Surgery | University of Nebraska Medical Center

Angioplasty and Stent Placement for the Heart | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Coronary Artery Disease | CDC

Peripheral Artery Disease - Symptoms and Causes | Mayo Clinic

Carotid Artery Disease | Medicine Plus

Cerebral Aneurysms | National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Complications After Receiving a Stent | Harvard Health

Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery | Cleveland Clinic

Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty | NCBI Bookshelf

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