There are different types of stents, such as bare metal stents, drug-eluting stents, or stent grafts, that may be used for different purposes. Stents used in the airways of the lungs include silicone stents and metal stents.
Stents used in airways include:
Stent grafts are used to treat aortic aneurysms. The stent graft is typically a tube made of leak-proof polyester with a metal mesh backbone. Stent grafts are used in larger arteries, such as the aorta, and provide a stable channel to support blood flow.
The stents used in coronary or carotid arteries include:
Learn about new types of stents being developed, including a biodegradable stent.
A new type of biodegradable stent has been developed that dissolves after a few months. This type of stent may be useful when the need is temporary, since performing another procedure to remove a stent comes with risks. Researchers are also trying new 3-D printing technology to design stents that can be custom fit for each patient and use.
Your doctor may recommend a stent to provide support inside an artery that has become narrowed by plaque buildup from atherosclerosis, or for lung airways that have narrowed due to other medical conditions. Your doctor will discuss the risks and benefits of the procedure with you. Sometimes, a stenting procedure is not recommended or another procedure is recommended instead. Learn more about the use of stents in the following conditions.
Your doctor may use a stent graft to treat an aneurysm or dissection, or tear, of the aorta. The stent graft supports the weak area of the aorta and helps to prevent the aneurysm or dissection from bursting. Stent grafts can also help to treat injuries that have weakened the aorta. Blood flows through the stent graft and prevents blood from leaking into the body.
Stents are often used to treat coronary arteries, which supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart, when they become narrow. A stent may be recommended to treat the symptoms that come with this narrowing, such as chest pain from angina that occur from lack of blood flow to the heart. A stent can also reduce damage to the heart muscle immediately after a heart attack, which is a complication of ischemic heart disease.
A stent may be used to treat narrowed airways in the lungs. Conditions that may lead to this include:
Learn more in our How the Lungs Work topic.
A stent may be used as treatment for narrowed arteries caused by peripheral artery disease (PAD), a condition that happens when plaque builds up in the arteries that carry blood to your legs, arms, or abdomen.
Stents may be used to treat PAD symptoms and help prevent future complications caused by reduced blood flow.
An artery stent may not be recommended in the following circumstances:
An airway stent may not be recommended in the following circumstances:
Your doctor and specialists on your healthcare team can determine if you need a stent by using certain tests and procedures. If you need a stent, talk to your doctor about how to prepare for the procedure.
To diagnose narrowed arteries or an aortic aneurysm, your doctor may have you undergo some of the following tests and procedures:
To diagnose narrowed airways, your doctor may have you undergo some of the following tests and procedures:
You may need additional tests, such as blood tests, EKG, chest X-ray, or chest CT scan, to prepare you for the procedure. Tell your doctor about any medicines you take, other surgical procedures you have had, and any medical conditions you have, such as diabetes, kidney disease, or sleep apnea.
You will be asleep for most stent procedures, so plan to have someone to take you home. You may go home the same day or after a few days, depending on the stent and any other medical conditions you have.
Before your procedure, you will be given detailed information, including:
Having a stent placed is a minimally invasive procedure, meaning it is not a major surgery. Stents for coronary arteries and carotid arteries are placed in similar ways. A stent graft is placed to treat an aneurysm in a procedure called aortic aneurysm repair. Airway stents are placed in a procedure that helps open airways in the lung. For most stents, you will be given medicine to make you sleep during the procedure. The stent procedure may be planned ahead of time or it may be performed in an emergency situation.
The procedures to place a stent to treat coronary and carotid arteries are similar. In both procedures, a thin tube with a deflated balloon on the end is threaded through a blood vessel to the narrowed or blocked artery. Once in place, the balloon is inflated and the stent is opened and placed in the artery.
After an incision is made in your upper thigh, your doctor will insert a stent graft through a large blood vessel using a catheter. Your doctor will guide the catheter and stent graft through the arteries to the aorta, where the aneurysm is located. The stent graft is opened up and placed in the aorta once it is in the right place.
Dye may be injected into the blood after the stent graft is placed to make sure the stent graft is working correctly and blood is not leaking into the aneurysm. The dye can be seen by X-ray.
An airway stent is placed using a bronchoscope, a small camera on the end of a long tube. The doctor will slide the bronchoscope through your nose or mouth and then down through your throat into the trachea and the airways.
The stent will be placed by sliding a guide wire along the side of the bronchoscope, then sliding a thin tube along the guide wire that carries the stent. Using the bronchoscope to watch, the doctors will open the stent in the narrowed airway. Fluoroscopy, a type of X-ray imaging, or ultrasound may also be used to help guide the stent placement. Afterward, the doctors may check your lungs by chest X-ray.
After the procedure to place a coronary stent, carotid stent, or airway stent, you will recover in the hospital for a few hours or overnight. For stent grafts, you may be in the hospital for a longer time. Although not common, you may also experience complications from the stenting procedure.
Before you leave the hospital, you will be given instructions that include:
Sometimes there are complications from a stenting procedure in an artery. These complications may include:
More serious or life-threatening complications may occur during a stenting procedure, but these are rare. People who have had other procedures to treat blocked arteries or who have congestive heart failure, chronic kidney disease, or diabetes, are usually at higher risk for complications, which may include:
Possible complications from a stenting procedure in an airway may include:
Less common but serious complications may include:
It is important to follow your treatment plan, including taking medicines prescribed by your doctor, making healthy lifestyle choices, and getting regular medical checkups. It is also important to know your risk of and what to do if you experience complications that are specific to the stent in your body.
It is important to get routine medical care if you have a stent. Talk with your doctor about how often you should schedule office visits and blood tests.
Return to After Getting a Stent to review instructions from your healthcare team after your stenting procedure.
Stents serve as treatment but cannot cure an underlying condition. Some types of stents need to be checked by your doctor to make sure they have not moved and are functioning properly. This may include:
Your doctor may recommend the following healthy lifestyle changes to reduce the chance of needing more procedures in the future or experiencing a heart attack or stroke.
Watch for signs or symptoms of complications from a coronary stent, carotid stent, or stent graft, including:
If you have a stent because of ischemic heart disease or carotid artery disease, you are still at risk for complications related to those diseases, such as heart attack or stroke. If you think you are or someone else is having the following symptoms, call 9–1–1 immediately.
Heart attack signs and symptoms include:
If you think someone may be having a stroke, act F.A.S.T. and perform the following simple test.
Complications of an airway stent procedure may happen soon after the procedure or later. You should call your doctor right away if you experience any of the following signs or symptoms:
These signs and symptoms may be caused by one of the following complications of your airway stenting procedure:
Learn about the following ways the NHLBI continues to translate current research into improved health and treatment options for people with atherosclerosis and heart disease. Research on this topic is part of the NHLBI’s broader commitment to advancing heart and vascular disease scientific discovery.
Learn about some of our pioneering research contributions that have improved clinical care.
In support of our mission, we are committed to advancing research on treatments for heart and vascular diseases in part through the following ways.
Learn about exciting research areas the NHLBI is exploring that involve stents.
We lead or sponsor many studies on stents and ischemic heart disease treatments. See if you or someone you know is eligible to participate in our clinical trials.
After reading our Stents Health Topic, you may be interested in additional information found in the following resources.