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All approved procedures in medicine are safe, when performed for the right indications. Any invasive procedure has associated risks, but generally, the potential benefit outweighs the risk. Stents are placed in arteries, veins, or ducts within glands. For the purpose of this answer, I will focus on the coronary arteries and aorta. There are numerous studies comparing surgery to stents, focused mainly on long-term results.
When considering if a treatment is safe, it is important to divide that concern between the short-term placement of the stent and the long-term implications of having a stent placed. There are long-term consequences including stent clotting (thrombosis), in-stent restenosis (scar formation), and stent migration causing endo-leaks (more applicable to aortic stenting). It is essential to talk to your doctor and/or surgeon to make an informed decision about which procedure is right for you.
All medical treatments carry some risk, however small, but many studies have been completed that prove the benefits of stents outweigh the risks most of the time. Once risks are understood, there are ways to offset them. For instance, drug-eluting stents (these are stents that are coated with drugs that help keep your artery from “reclogging”) offer the significant benefits of keeping your arteries open while also helping to avoid repeat procedures. There is a rare but serious risk with these types of stents, when compared with bare metal stents, of developing blood clots. While this risk is small (about 1 in 200) it is greatly reduced if you stick with your regimen of anti-clotting medicine. If you undergo stenting, it is essential that you take the specific anti-clotting medication that your doctor prescribes for at least 1 year and possibly indefinitely. You should NEVER stop taking your anti-clotting medicine (or any other prescribed medicine) without consulting your interventional cardiologist (the doctor who specializes in angioplasty and stenting procedures).
Only by talking with your doctor about your condition, your goals for your health and the risks and benefits of stenting, can you make the treatment choice that is best for your health and quality of life.
Recent research studies have clearly demonstrated the long-term safety of stents coated with special medicines, which prevent scar tissue buildup inside the stents. The studies have shown that there is no evidence of increased death or heart attacks with those stents. However, it is very important to follow all the instructions from your heart doctor and not stop taking medications, like clopidogrel (Plavix) and prasugrel (Effient), without prior approval from your doctor.
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.