As with any procedure and medical device implant, discuss the benefits and risks with your physician to find a treatment plan that will give you the quality of life that is right for you. Here is a snapshot of the benefits and risks of undergoing angioplasty and receiving a stent:
- If you are having a heart attack, angioplasty and stenting can save your life and reduce heart muscle damage.
- Most patients see immediate symptom improvement for heart and vascular disease and have sustained improvement in their quality of life.
- Angioplasty and stenting is a less invasive treatment for heart disease than bypass surgery. The procedure is done through a tiny incision in the groin or wrist, with the stent delivered via a catheter, rather than open-heart surgery.
- Recovery times for angioplasty and stenting are much shorter than for bypass surgery. After bypass surgery you will stay in the hospital for 4 to 5 days and then recover at home for 4 to 6 weeks, perhaps longer. After angioplasty and stenting, most patients are discharged from the hospital 12 to 24 hours after the catheter is removed. Many patients are able to return to work within a few days to a week after a procedure. If you have a stent for a heart attack, this time period might be slightly extended.
VIDEO: Please watch "SCAI Experts Answer Your Questions: What are the benefits to patients of interventional procedures like angioplasty or stents?"
- Angioplasty alone carries a risk of the artery collapsing. Stents were developed as a solution to this problem, and once implanted act as a scaffold to permanently prop the artery open. Not all sites within blood vessels treated with angioplasty are also good candidates for stenting.
- Angioplasty and stenting carry certain procedural risks, such as bleeding at the catheter insertion site, allergic reaction to contrast dye, and the possibility that the procedure will need to be stopped and emergency cardiac bypass graft surgery (CABG) performed instead.
- Stents can be affected by restenosis, the growth of scar tissue within the stent. If restenosis occurs, this may require a repeat procedure to treat.
- Very rarely, a blood clot can form inside of a stent. This is referred to as stent thrombosis and is treated like a heart attack.
- A very tiny percentage (much less than 1 percent) of stent patients seem to have an allergic reaction to the stent. This uncommon side effect is not yet well understood.
- Once you receive a stent, you will be required to take medications such as clopidogrel (Plavix) or prasugrel (Effient) for at least one month to prevent blood clots from forming in the stent if you receive a bare metal stent. For drug-eluting stents, you will be prescribed those same medications for at least one year. You should also be on a lifelong aspirin regimen.
VIDEO: Please watch "Making an Informed Choice."
Talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of angioplasty and stenting. Many of the risks can be managed. For example, your physician may implant a drug-eluting stent, rather than a bare metal stent, to help prevent scar tissue from forming. And patients who receive stents greatly reduce their risk of blood clots by taking the medicines exactly as their doctors prescribed. Click here to see a video with a leading cardiologist explaining how to protect your stent for optimal health.