Stenting is a procedure used to treat a variety of conditions where arteries, blood vessels, bile ducts or other tubular structures are blocked or are experiencing restricted flow. By placing stents into the structures, these structures can be held open to allow enhanced flow of blood, air, urine or bile, allowing some patients to avoid more invasive surgical procedures to correct these issues. While stenting can be used in a number of scenarios, including blocked bile ducts, narrowed airways or damaged uterers, it is most often used by vascular specialists when treating patients with carotid artery disease, peripheral artery disease or coronary heart disease. Stenting is most commonly used in these patients to hold arteries open, most often after angioplasty.
Angioplasty involves using a balloon to flatten the plaque in arteries to open the passageway for improved blood flow. Immediately after this procedure is performed, the vascular specialist can use a catheter with a deflated balloon under a stent to guide a stent into place. Once in place, the stent is expanded to hold the blood vessel open by inflating the balloon. The balloon can then be deflated and removed once the stenting is complete. This stent will then be held in place by the blood vessel walls, which will grow around it. Most current stenting procedures use drug-coated stents that limit scar tissue growth to avoid complications.
Patients who are good candidates for stenting may be able to avoid surgical removal of arterial plaque through carotid endarterectomy or undergoing bypass surgery, both of which require general anesthesia, more time in the hospital and an extended recovery period. Because of this, patients who have narrowed or blocked arteries, or who have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease, carotid artery disease or peripheral artery disease may want to discuss this option with a local vascular specialist who can assist them in determining if stenting is a viable option for their particular case.