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What are the risks of having a stent?

Receiving a stent can be a life-saving procedure. It can also reduce or eliminate conditions such as angina (chest pain). However, having a stent implanted is not free of risks. Be sure you are aware of the risks of receiving a stent, so you can plan to minimize those risks. First, what is a stent? A stent is a tiny, mesh tube that props an artery open to allow blood to flow through at a normal rate. You can think of a stent as a scaffold holding your artery walls open. Risks and complications of receiving a stent fall primarily into two categories: restenosis and thrombosis.  

Re-narrowing of the artery (restenosis):

  • An artery can re-narrow after a stent is implanted due to scar tissue growth. Your body treats a stent as a foreign body, and will try to heal what it perceives as an injury. To address the possibility of re-narrowing due to scar tissue growth, new stents have been developed that slowly release drugs capable of interrupting the body’s ability to form scar tissue. These are called drug-eluting stents.

Blood clot formation (thrombosis):

  • After either a bare metal or drug-eluting stent is implanted, there is a small chance that a blood clot may form on its surface. The chance of forming blood clots is rare, occurring in approximately 1 in 200 patients. However, if blood clots form, the complications can be serious, including heart attack or stroke.

To prevent clots from forming, medications that thin the blood and prevent it from clumping and forming clots are prescribed to all patients—no matter which type of stent is implanted. These “anti-platelet” medications include aspirin and clopidogrel (Plavix) or prasugrel (Effient). It is very important for you to continue with these medications without interruption as recommended by your cardiologist. If you are to have surgery or any bleeding events while taking these medications and are under the care of another healthcare provider, you must tell those providers about your blood-thinning medications for your heart, so that they can contact your cardiologist to seek further advice.

The risks of having a stent placed are pain and bleeding at the catheter insertion site. Occasionally, a tear is created in the coronary artery being stented and it often heals itself or can be corrected with a stent. Many people will also have evidence of heart damage on a blood test, but this is often not large enough to suggest the heart underwent significant damage such as a major heart attack.

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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.