Who Needs Stent and Why?
The heart of human beings is the strongest and efficient organ of the body. The strong muscles of the heart pump blood continuously without stopping for a moment. Thousands of gallons of blood move throughout the body due to the pumping of blood from the heart. Like other organs and parts of the body heart itself requires a continuous supply of blood to work properly. Coronary arteries supply oxygen and nutrients rich blood to the heart and its muscles.
Arteries are the type of blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood to your heart and other parts of the body. As long as arteries are healthy blood flows efficiently through them, but when plaque builds up progressively inside the arteries, it hardens and narrows your arteries. The condition is known as atherosclerosis hardening or clogging of the arteries). Plaque is made up of cholesterol, fat, calcium and other substances found in the blood. The plaque obstructs and limits the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart and other parts of the body. Clogged or blocked arteries can lead to life-threatening conditions, such as heart attack, stroke or even death.
Atherosclerosis is a slow, gradual and complex condition, the cause of which is not known, but it develops faster as a person age. However, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol and triglycerides levels in the blood are the risk factors for atherosclerosis.
Coronary artery disease
Coronary arteries supply blood rich in oxygen and vital nutrients to the heart. Due to the build-up of plaque on the inner walls of these arteries, they get narrowed or blocked (atherosclerosis: hardening or clogging of the arteries) and restrict blood flow to the heart. This condition is known as coronary artery disease. Owing to the inadequate blood supply, the heart doesn’t get adequate oxygen and vital nutrients – which are necessary for the proper functioning of the heart and its muscles. When this happens, the person having this problem experiences chest pain (angina). Myocardial infarction (heart attack) may occur when blood supply to a part of the heart muscle stops completely (due to a blood clot that blocks blood flow to the heart).
Stents reduce the risk of a heart attack, which is in progress, by keeping an artery open. Stents thus help in preventing a potential heart attack from striking.
Acute Coronary Syndromes
Unstable angina: Any change from stable angina or any new symptom that is severe, more frequent and last longer than usual is unstable Angina. It occurs even at rest. Unstable angina if not addressed can lead to a heart attack. An intense medical procedure or treatment (stent placement) is needed to treat unstable angina.
St Segment Elevation Myocardial infarction (STEMI): a sudden blockage in blood supply to the heart may cause STEMI. In this type of heart attack or MI, a large area of the heart is affected.
The symptoms associated with the acute coronary syndrome may or may not manifest. In some cases, symptoms do not manifest until a heart attack occurs, but some people experience angina symptoms, which suggest that they may soon develop a heart attack.
Angina symptoms develop when a coronary artery narrows, which include shortness of breath, chest pain, light-headedness and cold sweat. Some people don’t experience any symptoms at all.
Persons who suffer from coronary artery disease or obstructive condition experience shortness of breath, tightness in chest or chest pain during workout or exercise. Stents help in reducing symptoms in such patients. In some people, stents may be used instead of bypass surgery.
A stent is a very small tube made out of wire mesh (stainless steel or cobalt-chromium alloy). It plays a major role in treating heart disease. The main job of this tiny tube is to keep open your arteries that carry blood from the heart to other parts of the body and also to the heart itself. The procedure by which a stent is placed inside the artery is known as stent implantation – which is done by a catheter threaded into an artery. The stent helps in enlarging the blocked or narrowed segment of the artery to help improve blood flow.
If a Heart Attack Strikes, Stent can be a Life Saver
A stent can be a lifesaver when a heart attack occurs as a result of the breakdown of plaque and formation of a blood clot – which completely blocks blood flow in a partially clogged artery. A balloon catheter is used to insert or place a stent into the blocked artery. To reopen the blocked vessel (artery), the balloon is inflated and the stent is placed – which then expands and locks in place. The stent helps allow the artery to open at the clogged area so that blood flows freely. Stents help prevent arteries from becoming narrow or blocked again in the months or years after the procedure.
Stents thus help in restoring blood flow to the heart muscle and stopping the damage, which in turn helps in reducing the risk or possibilities of developing heart failure or even death.
Dr. Sanjeev Kumar
MBBS, DLO, MD (General Medicine), DM (Cardiology)
Consultant Interventional Cardiologist
Department of Cardiology