A leg stent is used to open blocked blood vessels in the leg. The device is typically placed in the artery after a balloon has been expanded to clear out the blockage. This procedure is called an angioplasty. The stent widens after the balloon is blown up and then the balloon and the wires that guide the process are removed from the blood vessel. The stent will then fit snugly in place and the blood is able to flow through it.
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a condition whereby the arteries begin to narrow due to the build up a fatty material. When this happens, and the physician suspects that a leg stent may be the best treatment option, he will usually insert a needle into a blood vessel in the groin and inject dye into to the body. The dye serves to trace blood flow through the veins. A thin, flexible camera wire is then inserted into the vessel and guided to the area of blockage in the leg. Once the blockage has been noted, the physician will insert the balloon, followed by the leg stent.
There are a number of risks associated with this procedure. Some of these include blood clots in the leg, bleeding at the stent insertion site, damage to the blood vessels and nerves, and misplacement of the stent. Although rare, stroke is also a potential problem.
Prior to placement of a leg stent, the patient may be given relaxation medication and will be requested to lie down on their back on a table. They could also be given a blood thinner. The insertion site will be numbed with a local anesthetic and the balloon catheter inserted. There are a few types of stents that are used for a variety of stent procedures. Stents for peripheral arteries are usually made from a specially designed, thin mesh tubing and can also be covered with a synthetic fabric.
Typically, the stents used for blocked leg arteries are able to slowly release a drug that can prevent clots and fibrosis, or excessive scarring of the vessel wall. This is called a drug-eluting stent. Also known as a “coated” or “medicated” stent, the drug-eluting stent has been successful in reducing further blockages from 25 percent down to the single digits. Anti-clotting drugs, such as aspirin, are usually taken for up to a year after the leg stent is placed. Eventually, the lining of the blood vessel will grow over the stent and incorporate it into the system, eliminating the need for anti-clotting agents.