Stents What Are Stents?

Doctor holding a stentA stent is a small mesh tube typically used to hold open passages in the body, such as weak or narrowed arteries. Stents are often used to treat narrowed coronary arteries that provide the heart with oxygen-rich blood. Stents are also sometimes used to treat an aneurysm, which is a bulge in the wall of an artery, and to treat narrowed airways in the lungs.

Stenting is a minimally invasive procedure, meaning it is not considered major surgery. Stents can be made of metal mesh, fabric, silicone, or combinations of materials. Stents used for coronary arteries are made of metal mesh. Fabric stents, also called stent grafts, are used in larger arteries such as the aorta. Stents used in the airways of the lungs are often made of silicone.

After a stenting procedure, you may need to take certain medicines, such as aspirin and other antiplatelet medicines that prevent cells in your blood from forming clots. Your healthcare provider may recommend taking this medicine for a year or longer after receiving a stent in your artery to prevent serious complications. The most common problem after a stenting procedure is a blockage or blood clot in the stent. With airway stents, problems can include the stent moving out of place or becoming blocked.

Types of stents

Stents are used for different purposes and are made from several types of materials, depending on where they will go in the body.   

Airway stents

Some stents are used in the lung airways.

  • Metal stents are made of bare metal or covered with another material such as silicone. Hybrid stents contain a mixture of materials. 
  • Silicone stents are made of a material that can be molded to a certain shape. They are used more often if the stent is temporary.

Aortic aneurysm stents

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 for the blood to flow through.

Coronary or carotid artery stents

Some stents are used specifically in the coronary or carotid arteries.

  • Bare metal stents are simple tubes made of metal mesh that can be used in both the coronary and carotid arteries.
  • Drug-eluting stents are the most common type of stents used in the coronary arteries. They are coated with medicine, which is released into the artery over time to prevent the artery from narrowing again. Different types of drug-eluting stents are coated with different medicines.
  • Biodegradable stents dissolve after a few months. This type of stent can be useful when the need is temporary. Since these stents dissolve, you don’t need another procedure to remove them. 

In 2020, the FDA approved the use of 3D printed stents. These stents can be custom fit for each patient and use. 

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