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What is a stent?
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A stent is a small, lattice-shaped, metal tube that is inserted permanently into an artery. The stent helps hold open an artery so that blood can flow through it.

Drug-eluting stents are stents that contain drugs that potentially reduce the chance the arteries will become blocked again.

When is
it used?

A stent is used to hold open an artery that has become too narrow due to atherosclerosis. In atherosclerosis, plaque builds up on the inner walls of arteries, the blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood throughout the body.

As the artery walls thicken, the pathway for blood narrows. This can slow or block blood flow.

How does
it work?

The stent acts as a scaffold, remaining in place permanently to help keep the artery open.

A stent is inserted through a main artery in the groin (femoral artery) or arm (brachial artery) and threaded up to the narrowed section of the artery with a tiny catheter (balloon catheter.)

When it reaches the right location, the balloon is slightly inflated to push the plaque out of the way and expand the artery (balloon angioplasty). Some stents are stretched open (expanded) by the balloon at the same time as the artery. Other stents are inserted into the artery immediately after the angioplasty procedure.

Once in place, the stent helps holds the artery open so that the heart muscle gets enough blood.

Drug-eluting stents contain a drug that is released locally over time.

What will it accomplish? The stent opens the narrowed artery so that an adequate supply of blood can be restored.
What are
the risks?

The stent placement procedure can cause infection, blood clots, or bleeding. Other rare complications of coronary stents include chest pain, heart attack, or tearing of the blood vessel. The stent can move out of place (stent migration). In some cases, plaque can reappear in the stented artery (in-stent restenosis).

Drug-eluting stents have additional risks other than those listed here.

Your doctor can tell you more about the risks associated with stents and drug-eluting stents.

When should
it not be used?

Stents should not be used in patients who can not tolerate angioplasty, or who are sensitive (allergic) to the stent materials. They can not be used in patients who can not be placed on blood-thinning (anti-platelet) medication.

Drug-eluting stents have additional restrictions. Your doctor can tell you more about whether or not you are an appropriate candidate for this technology.

Recently approved stents:

Find information about specific stents from FDA's Recently Approved Devices listings.

Search all stents:

Updated December 7, 2006

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