Heart attacks are a pressing issue in many developed countries. A sedentary lifestyle, poor dietary habits, and other chronic conditions can increase the chances of experiencing a cardiac event like a heart attack. According to experts, a heart attack occurs approximately every 40 seconds in the United States alone.
A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to the heart is interrupted in some manner. If this lack of blood flow to the heart persists for an extended period of time, it can lead to permanent damage to the tissue of the heart.
The need for swift care is why a heart attack is considered a medical emergency. Luckily, there are many ways in which a blockage can be managed, including thrombolytics, vasodilators, and surgical intervention.
Below is a closer look at what a stent is, when it is utilized, how often it is utilized, the pros and cons of stent placement, and some helpful resources that can help in your post-stent recovery.
A stent is a medical device that is designed to restore blood flow. Stents can be used for the blockage of blood flow to the heart but can also be utilized with vascular blockages in the neck and legs. The stent itself is an expanding cylinder, and it is implanted through a catheter that is fed through a major artery on another part of the body.
The most common stent procedure is an angioplasty and stent procedure, which involves a small incision of a major vessel in the groin, arm, or wrist. The catheter is fed through the vessel until it reaches the blocked artery. Once in place, a balloon at the tip of the catheter is inflated to stretch open the blocked artery. To ensure that the artery doesn’t reclose, a stent is placed to keep it open.
The heart is a muscle that contracts continuously day in and day out. Each contraction of the heart requires blood to supply the heart with oxygen and nutrition and to help in the elimination of waste products.
The coronary arteries carry the main supply of blood to the heart, and a blockage of these arteries is what causes a heart attack. There are many different forms of blockages that can occur.
Some blockages can be caused by a spasm of the coronary arteries, a buildup of plaque in the walls of the artery, or a clot. These blockages can either reduce blood flow or completely prevent blood from flowing.
Reduced blood flow through the coronary arteries can cause a number of issues. In mild cases, the restriction of blood can cause a condition called angina pectoris, which consists of chest pain associated with reduced blood flow to the heart.
Moderate to severe blockages can start to interfere with the functioning of the heart and can greatly increase the risk of experiencing a complete blockage and heart attack. Unfortunately, this can permanently damage the tissue of the heart.
It is estimated that roughly 600,000 stenting procedures are performed in the United States each year. Even though the procedure is quite common, not all coronary vessel blockages will need a stent. Determining if stenting is the right option requires a case-by-case determination from a physician.
Stenting is one of the more common procedures for heart blockages, but it is not always the best option. Some other management techniques include medication and observation for mild cases or invasive medical procedures like coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) for more severe cases.
Many people are told that a 70 percent blockage of the coronary artery will require a stent, but ultimately, it depends on the individual, their current health status, and the likelihood that the stent will improve the overall quality of life.
Stenting is a procedure that is commonplace in many hospitals across the country. Even though it is performed fairly frequently, it isn’t without its own set of unique risks.
Some of the risks of stenting can involve infection of the site of insertion, reclosure of the artery, and in rare cases, dislodgement of the stent. Blood clot formation on the stent may also be another risk factor.
While these risks do exist, in many cases, they are greatly outweighed by the benefits. Individuals with largely occluded coronary arteries can achieve a large amount of relief from chest pain and significantly reduce their chances of a blood clot completely blocking off blood flow.
A stent procedure is a minimally invasive procedure, but it is still a surgical intervention that requires some level of recovery. A large part of the recovery process for a stent procedure involves improving outcomes by supporting your overall health and cardiovascular health.
Below is a closer look at four distinct methods that may help in the recovery process following a stent procedure.
The placement of a stent can greatly improve the flow of blood to the heart, and an important aspect of recovery is ensuring that the artery does not revert to its occluded state. Medications can be immensely helpful in reducing the reclosure of the artery and can help to reduce the development of blood clot formation.
The exact medication that is prescribed following a stenting procedure will vary depending on your particular condition. Some people who are suffering from high cholesterol may be placed on a statin, while others may be placed on thrombolytics if they have an increased risk of developing clots.
Your doctor is your best resource for understanding what medications will be given following your specific procedure.
Coronary artery occlusion does not occur overnight, and a large contributing factor to needing a heart stent is living a less-than-ideal lifestyle. Factors like eating a diet high in cholesterol, smoking, excess weight, and mismanaged diabetes can increase the chances of developing heart disease and plaque accumulation in the coronary artery.
After a stent procedure, it can be immensely helpful toward long-term outcomes if you make positive lifestyle changes. Enrolling in a smoking cessation program, making an effort to live a more active lifestyle, making beneficial changes to your diet, and generally taking good care of your health can help aid in the recovery process and make sure that your stent procedure is worthwhile.
Poor cardiovascular health can place you at a disadvantage when it comes to long-term outcomes following a stent procedure. Many individuals that have significant coronary plaque buildup live a relatively sedentary lifestyle.
This, compounded with other risk factors like poor diet, can significantly reduce the health of your cardiovascular system and can make plaque buildup in your arteries more likely.
Following a procedure involving the cardiovascular system, it may be beneficial to enroll in a cardiac rehab program to help support overall cardiovascular health. Cardiac rehabilitation is a program that utilizes a combination of monitored exercise, patient education, and nutritional assistance from a trained exercise physiologist to help safely encourage your cardiovascular health.
Carda Health is an online cardiac rehabilitation provider that is dedicated to providing more patients with the complementary support they need without the barriers associated with traditional in-person programs.
There are many benefits of cardiac rehab for individuals following a heart attack or experiencing heart failure, and Carda Health aims to make it easier than ever to get a tailored rehab program.
The majority of stenting procedures go off without a hitch, but it is still important for you to follow up with your doctors for further monitoring and follow-up appointments. These appointments are crucial to ensure that the procedure went well and that you are working toward a route toward recovery.
At the end of the day, stents are powerful medical devices that can help to restore the flow of blood in occluded arteries. When arteries are slightly occluded, medication and lifestyle modification may be enough to restore optimal blood flow. However, more severe cases may require the placement of a stent or even full bypass surgery.
Stenting is a minimally invasive surgical procedure, but it still requires recovery time. Following your doctor's instructions on recovery and participating in a cardiac rehabilitation program can help you in your long-term stent recovery process.
Attribution of Adverse Events Following Coronary Stent Placement Identified Using Administrative Claims Data | American Heart Association Journal
Heart Disease and Stroke | CDC.
How Cardiac Rehabilitation Can Help Heal Your Heart | cdc.gov