What is a coronary stent?
A coronary stent is a tube placed in the coronary arteries that supply the heart, to keep the arteries open in the treatment of coronary heart disease. It is used in a procedure called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI). Similar stents and procedures are used in non-coronary vessels e.g. in the legs in peripheral artery disease.
Before the stent is inserted, you will probably be instructed to take aspirin for several days. Aspirin can help decrease the possibility of blood clots forming at the stent. Because anesthesia will be used during the procedure, you should not eat or drink after midnight of the previous day.
Coronary stenting usually follows balloon angioplasty, which requires inserting a balloon catheter into the femoral artery in the upper thigh. When this catheter is positioned at the location of the blockage in the coronary artery, it is slowly inflated to widen that artery, and is then removed. The stent catheter is then threaded into the artery and the stent is placed around a deflated balloon. When this is correctly positioned in the coronary artery, the balloon is inflated, expanding the stent against the walls of the coronary artery. The balloon catheter is removed, leaving the stent in place to hold the coronary artery open. A cardiac angiography will follow to insure that the stent is keeping the artery open.
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Recovery in the hospital
You will be instructed to stay flat in bed without bending your legs so that the artery can heal from the insertion of the catheter. A stitch or collagen plug may be placed at the site of the catheter insertion to seal the wound and firm pressure may be applied to the area. A flat position is required for two to six hours after the procedure. A health care provider will help you get out of bed for the first time when the doctor approves it. You will be allowed to eat after you are able to get out of bed.
You will be closely monitored during the recovery period. Vital signs and other parameters such as the heart's rhythm and electrical activity as well as oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in arterial blood are checked frequently. A catheter may be placed to drain urine during the recovery period. A blood thinner may be given intravenously for the first few hours after the procedure to prevent clotting.