Angioplasty and stents are the standard of care to treat a heart attack in progress. The minimally invasive procedure is also used if lifestyle changes and medications are not eliminating symptoms like chest pain (angina) and shortness of breath caused by coronary artery disease. For some patients, angioplasty and stents may be used to reopen blocked carotid arteries that can cause a stroke and to expand narrowed arteries that supply the arms and legs with blood.
If you are taken to the emergency room for a heart attack, research findings and medical guidelines clearly recommend treatment with angioplasty and stents. In fact, if you are having a heart attack, angioplasty and stenting can save your life and save heart muscle.
If you are considering angioplasty and stenting to ease chest pain, shortness of breath, and other symptoms of heart disease that have been stable and have been going on for weeks or months, discuss your treatment options and likely outcomes with your doctor. Stents are highly effective at relieving chest pain (angina) and other symptoms. Patients, however, should be aware that lack of symptoms after placement of a stent does not mean they are free of heart disease throughout their arteries. Dietary changes, exercise and medication will still be necessary to combat heart disease.
It is important to note that once you receive a stent, medication is particularly important and must be taken exactly as prescribed. Antiplatelet therapy of aspirin and Plavix (clopidogrel) or Effient (prasugrel) can prevent a blood clot from forming on the stent - a rare but potentially fatal complication.