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A coronary stent is an artificial support device used in the coronary artery to keep the vessel open.
The coronary stent is a relatively new tool used to keep coronary arteries expanded, usually following a balloon angioplasty. Balloon angioplasty is used in patients with coronary artery disease. In this disease, the blood vessels on the heart become narrow. When this happens, the oxygen supply is reduced to the heart muscle. The primary cause of coronary artery disease is fat deposits blocking the arteries (atherosclerosis). In many cases, balloon angioplasty is unsuccessful and the vessel closes after the procedure (restenosis). By forming a rigid support, the stent can prevent restenosis and reduce the need for coronary bypass surgery. The stent is usually a stainless steel mesh tube. Since the stent will be placed inside an artery, the device comes in various sizes to match the size of the artery.
Any foreign object in the body, like a stent, will increase the risk of thrombosis. Anticlotting medication is given to prevent this complication.
Coronary stenting usually follows balloon angioplasty, which requires inserting a balloon catheter into the femoral artery in the upper thigh. When this catheter is positioned at the location of the blockage in the coronary artery, it is slowly inflated to widen that artery, and is then removed. The stent catheter is then threaded into the artery and the stent is placed around a deflated balloon. When this is correctly positioned in the coronary artery, the balloon is inflated, expanding the stent against the walls of the coronary artery. The balloon catheter is removed, leaving the stent in place to hold the coronary artery open. A cardiac angiography will follow to insure that the stent is keeping the artery open.
Balloon angioplasty and coronary stenting are performed to relieve the symptoms of coronary artery disease. By the time coronary artery disease progresses and requires balloon angioplasty, there is no alternative to balloon angioplasty other than coronary bypass surgery. Coronary bypass surgery carries greater risks. However, since coronary artery disease can be related to high fat diets, smoking, and lack of exercise, changes in lifestyle may reduce the risk of developing the disease. Various medications for cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes also can help treat or prevent coronary artery disease.
Author Info: Cindy L. A. Jones PhD, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 2002
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