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Do all angioplasty patients receive stents?

If a patient has a blockage in an artery caused by build-up of a fatty substance called plaque, he or she may undergo angioplasty. An interventional cardiologist performs angioplasty in a hospital by guiding a thin tube called a catheter through the patient’s artery that is causing the heart attack. Then a small balloon at the tip of the catheter opens and closes to push the blockage out of the way and restore blood flow through the artery.

At that point, the patient may receive a tiny medical device called a stent. A stent is actually pretty simple: it is a metal mesh tube that props an artery open to keep an artery from collapsing again after angioplasty.

At least 80 percent of angioplasty procedures are accompanied - or followed - by the insertion of a stent. The 20 percent of angioplasties that do not also include stent insertion represent cases when a stent was determined to not be the best course of treatment. Some arteries that can be treated successfully with angioplasty are not well suited to also receive a stent. These include arteries that are hardened or calcified, arteries that are too small in diameter to insert a stent and arteries that have narrowings or blockages very far down the length of the artery. Sometimes, if the interventional cardiologist feels that the best treatment for the patient is bypass surgery, he or she will perform balloon angioplasty only (without a stent) so that blood supply is restored in the short term and plans can be made to refer the patient for bypass surgery for long-term benefit.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.