What it's like: How it feels to get a heart stent

A stent will support the inner wall of your heart's blocked artery, while the angioplasty procedure helps restore blood flow through the artery or arteries that were blocked.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: April 28, 2013

Why get heart stent?

A stent is a small mesh tube used to treat narrow or weakened arteries, which carry blood away from your heart. Stents are usually made of metal mesh, but some fabric stents are used in larger arteries.

A stent is generally placed as part of a procedure known as angioplasty. The stent will support the inner wall of your blocked artery, while the angioplasty procedure helps restore blood flow through the artery or arteries that were blocked.

You might need a stent because you have a blockage in a coronary artery, which is how your heart receives its own supply of blood. Your heart muscle will need more blood than it can get, usually in stressful situations, such as during exercise. If the blockage is limiting blood flow, and you have symptoms that include chest discomfort and a squeezing situation that can't be treated with medication, your doctor might recommend a stent to improve your symptoms.

What happens when you get a heart stent?

You might not be fully asleep during the procedure. Some hospitals might choose to place you under conscious sedation. You'll be relaxed but aware enough to communicate with your surgeon if he or she has any questions, or if you are having pain during the stent placement.

After you are somewhat sedated, a medical staff member will numb the entry point for the procedure. During a stent procedure, your chest is not cracked open. Rather, to begin the procedure, your surgeon will run a wire through one of your arteries, generally either through an artery in your leg, called the femoral artery, or an artery in your arm, the radial artery.

A one-way sheath will be inserted that doesn't allow blood to come out. Once that's in, you'll generally be given blood thinners to help prevent clotting. Your surgeon will use a small wire and catheter to go up your arm or leg to the base of the aorta, the body's main conduit out of the heart.

From there, your surgeon will use wires to reach the blockage in your heart. Your surgeon generally deploys a tiny balloon, which will open up the area and allow for the stent to be placed. Throughout the surgery, your doctor will take photos of your heart at various angles to ensure everything is going well.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, medicine and fitness, among other things. She graduated from Oklahoma State University with a news-editorial and broadcast production degree. Outside of work, she enjoys riding her bike, taking pictures of...
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