Stents What Are Stents?
A stent is a small mesh tube typically used to hold open passages in the body, such as weak or narrowed blood vessels. Stents are often used to treat narrowing in the coronary arteries, which provide the heart with oxygen-rich blood. Stents can also help to treat an aneurysm, which is a bulge in the wall of an artery, as well as narrowed airways in the lungs.
Stenting is a minimally invasive procedure, meaning it does not require a large, open incision in the body and is not considered major surgery. However, before you get a stent, you may need certain tests or some medicines to prepare for the procedure. Stents can be made of metal mesh, fabric, silicone, or combinations of materials. Stents for coronary arteries are usually made of metal mesh and sometimes covered with another material. Fabric stents, or 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 you receive a stent, and depending on its location in the body, you may need to take certain medicines, such as aspirin and other antiplatelet medicines that prevent your blood from forming clots. Your healthcare provider may recommend taking this medicine for a year or longer after receiving an artery stent to prevent complications. The most common problems are a stent becoming blocked, a blood clot forming in an artery stent, or an airway stent moving out of place.
Types of stents
Stents have different purposes. The materials used in stents can vary depending on where they will go in the body.
Some stents are used in the airways in the lungs. Airway stents are usually temporary.
- Metal stents are made of bare metal or covered with another material, such as silicone. They can be difficult to remove from the airways, so they are not common.
- Silicone stents are made of a material that can be molded to a certain shape. They are more common, because they are easy to insert and remove. Some silicone stents are 3D printed and can be custom fit for each person.
Aortic aneurysm stents
Stent grafts are used to treat aortic aneurysms. The stent graft is typically a tube made of leakproof polyester with metal mesh underneath. 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 made specifically for the coronary or carotid arteries.
- Bare metal stents are simple metal mesh tubes 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. Usually, these stents have a metal mesh structure and another layer that covers the metal. The outside layer is coated with medicine that 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. Sometimes the outer layer is biodegradable, meaning it breaks down and dissolves over time, leaving only the metal mesh part of the stent in the artery.