A vascular stent is a medical device designed to be inserted into a blood vessel in order to keep it open. The device is implanted during a medical procedure with the guidance of a radiologist to assist with placement, and can be used to treat a variety of issues. Vascular stenting is performed at many hospitals and clinics around the world, and when it is available as a treatment option, physicians will discuss it with their patients.
There are two basic categories of vascular stent. The first is a bare stent, also called a wire stent. It consists of a small, collapsible wire framework. In the surgery, the device is threaded through a catheter into the desired blood vessel and then expanded to hold the vein open. Blood should flow freely through the vessel around the device, although the patient may need to take blood thinners to prevent clotting and occlusions.
A covered stent or stent graft has a covering made from fabric. It is collapsed while the insertion process is performed, and once in place, can be opened up to hold the blood vessel open. A common use of this device is in procedures to treat aneurysms, where the goal is to route blood around the area of swelling in the blood vessel. The blood can flow through the graft, reducing strain on the vessel and lessening the risk of a rupture.
Stenting can be recommended in patients with narrowed, hardened, or blocked blood vessels, in addition to aneurysms. The patient may be awake for the procedure, depending on where the device is being placed. The doctor works with a radiologist to image the area, confirm that the catheter is being properly inserted, and place the vascular stent before inflating it and withdrawing the catheter. Once a vascular stent is in place, the patient should experience an immediate improvement of the underlying condition, as the problem with blood flow will be addressed.
When a vascular stent is recommended, patients may want to ask about the risks and benefits of the procedure, along with any alternative treatment options. The doctor should be able to provide an accurate assessment of the prognosis with different treatment options so the patient can make an informed choice about the procedure. It is important for patients to go over their medical histories thoroughly, as risks can change, depending on issues like previous reactions to medication or a family history of cardiovascular disease.