Arterial Stent Q & A
What is an Arterial stent?
An arterial stent is placed to keep an artery open and improve blood flow. The stent is a small, expandable, mesh-like tube that supports the artery and helps to maintain the integrity of the arterial walls.
How is a stent procedure performed?
Implanting a stent does not require open surgery. The doctor inserts a catheter into an artery in your arm or leg, during the balloon angioplasty procedure. A specially designed catheter delivers the stent to the narrow area in the artery. The stent is expanded, flattening the plaque against the artery wall and holding the artery open with a mesh tube. The catheter used to deliver the stent is then removed, but the stent stays in your artery permanently to maintain healthy blood flow.
The procedure is performed as follows:
- Prior to your procedure, ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be performed.
- You will be positioned on the examining table.
- You may be connected to monitors that track your heart rate, blood pressure and pulse during the procedure.
- A nurse or technologist will insert an intravenous (IV) line into a vein in your hand or arm so that sedative medication can be given intravenously. Moderate sedation may be used.
- The area of your body where the catheter is to be inserted will be sterilized and covered with a surgical drape.
- A very small skin incision is made at the site.
- Using image-guidance, a catheter (a long, thin, hollow plastic tube) is inserted through the skin to the treatment site.
- A contrast material then is injected through your IV and a series of x-rays are taken to locate the exact site of blockage.
- A tiny balloon inside the catheter is gently guided through the artery until it reaches the blockage. Then the balloon is inflated.
- The inflated balloon pushes fatty deposits against the artery wall, creating an opening that improves blood flow.
- At the end of the procedure, the catheter will be removed, and pressure will be applied to stop any bleeding. The opening in the skin is then covered with a dressing. No sutures are needed.
- Your intravenous line will be removed.
- You can expect to stay in the recovery area for 1-3 hours after the procedure.
The length of the procedure varies from 30 minutes to several hours, depending on the complexity of the condition.
Is it painful either during and after the procedure?
You will feel a slight pin prick when the needle is inserted into your vein for the intravenous line (IV) and when the local anesthetic is injected. Most of the sensation is at the skin incision site, which is numbed using local anesthetic. You may feel pressure when the catheter is inserted into the vein or artery.
If the procedure is done with sedation, the intravenous (IV) sedative will make you feel relaxed, sleepy and comfortable for the procedure. You may or may not remain awake, depending on how deeply you are sedated. If you remain conscious, you may feel slight pressure when the catheter is inserted, but no serious discomfort.
As the contrast material passes through your body, you may experience a warm feeling which quickly subsides.
When the procedure is completed, you will be given verbal and written instructions on recovery and activity before you are released.