Heart Stents: Tiny and Effective

stents, cardiology, heart care

February is Heart Health Month, and the cardiac patient stories can be dramatic. A patient may go in with chest pain and is diagnosed with nearly 100% blockage in one or more arteries.

A heart attack is a frightening medical emergency. But with quick treatment, many patients can make a full recovery thanks to a tiny medical device – a heart stent.

“Some people come in with massive chest pain because they are having a heart attack,” said Ling Twohig, DO, an interventional cardiologist with Memorial Specialty Care Cardiology. “Thirty minutes later, after a heart stent, the same patient on the same surgical table is no longer moaning or struggling with great discomfort. The next morning, they are ready to walk out of the hospital.”

A stent is a small expandable metal mesh coil inserted into the artery to keep the artery open and blood flowing. Nationally, one in four people will experience some form of heart disease during their life. A heart stent is one form of treatment that improves blood flow to the heart and can help relieve symptoms quickly.

Stent placement is a minimally invasive procedure. Doctors insert a thin tube called a catheter into an artery, usually in the patient’s wrist or groin, to guide the stent to the blockage. Most patients resume normal activities within several days to a week.

But placement of a stent doesn’t mean the patient is “cured.” After a heart attack, it’s important to make lifestyle changes to prevent further damage to the arteries.

“Unfortunately, a heart stent does not cure heart disease,” said Dr. Twohig. “While the procedure will open a blocked artery, reduce immediate discomfort and improve blood flow to the heart, a patient’s overall lifestyle is still the largest factor in managing heart disease.”