Stents When Do You Need a Stent?


Your healthcare provider may recommend a stent to provide support inside a narrowed artery or airway. They will discuss the risks and benefits of the procedure with you. There are several conditions that may mean you need a stent.

Aortic aneurysm or dissection

Your doctor may use a stent graft to treat an aneurysm or dissection of the aorta. The stent graft supports the weak area of the aorta and helps to prevent the aneurysm or dissection from bursting or rupturing. Stent grafts can also help to treat injuries that have weakened the aorta. Blood flows through the stent graft, and the stent graft prevents blood from leaking into the body.

Carotid artery disease

The carotid arteries are found in the neck and supply oxygen-rich blood to the brain. plaque can build up in the carotid arteries, causing carotid artery disease and an increased risk of stroke.

Coronary heart disease

Stents are often used to treat narrowed coronary arteries, which supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart. Lack of blood flow to the heart can lead to chest pain and damage to the heart muscle from a heart attack. Learn about blood flow at How the Heart Works.

Lung conditions

A stent may be used to treat narrowed airways in the lungs. Several conditions or procedures  may lead to the need for an airway stent.

  • Problems may be present at birth, also called congenital conditions.
  • Infections or diseases can cause swelling such as sarcoidosis, or any problem in the body that presses on the lungs.
  • Injury can occur to the airways from intubation, when a tube is guided down into the lungs; a tracheostomy; or a hole forming where transplanted lungs were stitched together.
  • Tumors can block the airways. Cancer treatment, such as radiation or chemotherapy, can sometimes damage the airway and prevent the airway from working correctly. Learn about airways in How the Lungs Work.

Peripheral artery disease

A stent may be used as treatment for narrowed arteries caused by peripheral artery disease (PAD), a condition 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 health problems caused by reduced blood flow.

When a stent may not be recommended

For all procedures, your provider will consider your health, talk to you about the risks, and help you make a decision.

An artery stent may not be recommended in some circumstances.

  • If your condition is mild, your provider may monitor your condition, start you on medicine, and recommend heart-healthy lifestyle changes.
  • If you have other medical conditions such as multiple narrowed coronary arteries, kidney disease that is long-lasting, or diabetes, stents may not be recommended. Your provider may recommend coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG) instead.
  • Age or other risk factors may lead your provider to recommend another procedure instead of a carotid stent, especially if you are over age 70. Your provider may also recommend another procedure if the risk of stroke is high. Stent grafts may be riskier for older patients or those with conditions such as kidney failure or heart failure.

An airway stent may not be recommended in some circumstances.

  • If you cannot have anesthesia or sedation.
  • If you need future procedures, such as laser therapy, which can break or burn the stent. The stent can also get in the way if your lung requires surgery for other reasons.
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