Stent implantation is an angioplasty procedure performed by a cardiologist, nurses and technicians who are specially trained to work in a catheterization facility. During the procedure, a stent is placed into your heart to open a blood vessel that has narrowed because of plaque buildup. The walls of your artery are supported by the stent, which has the appearance of a wire mesh coil.
The stent implantation procedure takes place in a facility that is equipped with cardiac care in case immediate heart surgery is required. General anesthesia is not required for stent implantation, but you will receive a sedative through an intravenous (IV) line. You will be relaxed and drowsy but aware of your surroundings.
Blood-thinning medications are also injected to reduce the chances of blood clots. The area where the catheters are inserted to reach the heart is cleaned, shaved and numbed. The common area is on one or both sides of your groin, where you might feel pressure. Angiograms — or X-ray images — provide the cardiologist with a view of the blocked area of your heart. A thin guide wire is inserted into your heart with dye placed in a catheter so the cardiologist can see the images.
Your heart rate is monitored through small electrode pads that are placed on your chest. One of two types of coronary stents is used. Bare-metal stents keep the artery open and prevent the artery from narrowing again. Drug-eluting stents have a special drug coating that release the medication over time to aid in preventing a re-blocked artery.
The stent implantation involves inserting a balloon at the end of a catheter into your heart. The balloon is inflated for several minutes to stretch the artery. Blood flow to your heart is blocked temporarily, so you might experience chest pains while the balloon is inflated. The balloon is deflated and removed after the artery is stretched wide enough to support the stent placement.
After the artery is widened and the stent is collapsed, the cardiologist inserts the stent with a delivery catheter into the coronary artery. The balloon is inflated in the area where you have blockage. The stent expands to lock itself inside your artery.
The procedure is repeated if you have several blockages. The stent works to fit the size and contours of your artery and becomes a permanent implant. The wire guide catheter is removed after the stent implantation is complete.