What Are Stents, How Do They Work, And When Are They Used?

Question: What are stents, how do they work, and when are they used?

Answer: When patients develop blockages in the arteries to the heart -- that is, the coronary arteries -- these blockages are made up of fats and lipids, cholesterol, and sometimes very hard material such as calcium.

And you can think of a blockage in the artery of the heart just like plumbing; so when your tubes get blocked, there are two ways to basically fix them: one is by bypassing them, and that's like surgery -- plugging in something before the blockage and then after the blockage -- and the other way is actually working on the blockage inside the pipe or the tube; and that's what a stent does.

A stent is a little metallic cage. It's made out of usually surgical-grade stainless steel or other type of metallic alloys, and it pushes open and holds open the blockage from the inside out, and, therefore, it restores normal blood flow. And the real advantage of a stent procedure, compared to surgery or other forms of opening up blockages, is that it's much easier for the patient to go through.

There's much less pain, the recovery is faster, and most patients go home the next day.

Next: When Do Cardiologists Use Drug-Coated Stents And When Do They Use Regular Stents?

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