If you have atrial fibrillation and are at risk for stroke, you may have to take blood thinners for the rest of your life. Alternatively, the WATCHMAN™ implant may reduce the need for blood thinners and reduce your risk of stroke. Here’s how.
Coronary artery disease is a narrowing or blockage of the major arteries in your heart often caused by atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. In the United States, coronary artery disease affects more than 16 million men and women. Left untreated, this disease can continue to make your arteries narrower, restricting blood flow and leading to a heart attack or stroke.
A stent is a tiny tube that helps keep your arteries open and the blood flowing freely. At Premier Cardiology Consultants, with several locations on Long Island and in Manhattan, the expert team of cardiologists routinely performs stent placement procedures to help restore blood flow in your heart. Stents can also open up the arteries in your legs if you have vein blockages there — a condition called peripheral artery disease.
If you’ve tried less-invasive treatments for coronary artery disease without success, or you have a severe blockage in one of your arteries, your cardiologist may recommend stent placement. Here’s what you can expect during and after your procedure.
Typically, you’re awake during your stent placement because it’s a minimally invasive procedure. Medicine helps you relax, and a local anesthetic numbs the area of insertion, but you’re able to hear your doctor and you’re aware of what’s going on around you. You receive blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants) and other medications intravenously.
Depending on where the stent is going, your vascular surgeon may insert it in your arm or groin and thread it along to its permanent location. During the procedure, the doctor first inserts a small guidewire into your blocked blood vessel. Using live X-rays (fluoroscopy), he threads a catheter through the artery along the guidewire and injects a small amount of contrast into your blood vessel to monitor the tracking of the catheter, balloon, and stent.
The catheter is very thin and contains a tiny balloon and a wire mesh stent. When your doctor inflates the balloon at the site of the blockage, it opens the artery and pushes the plaque buildup outward, which helps improve blood flow in that artery.
You shouldn’t feel any pain during these steps, although some people feel pressure as the balloon inflates inside the artery. While the balloon holds the artery open, the stent expands to the size of the artery. Then, your doctor is able to deflate the balloon so the stent stays in place, keeping the artery open and the blood flowing more freely through it.
Once the stent is in position, your surgeon removes the catheter and wire and closes the small incision in your leg or arm.
After stent placement, you need to rest in bed for up to 24 hours, so expect to stay overnight at the hospital. This ensures that your medical team can monitor you and that you don’t experience any complications. If you had a heart attack or stroke before the stent placement, you may need to stay in the hospital for a while longer.
If you receive a stent to help prevent a heart attack or stroke — nonemergency stent placement — you may be able to resume your usual activities in a few days. You should avoid strenuous exercise, drink plenty of fluids, and attend to any other instructions your doctor gives you to help with recovery.
Your stent becomes a permanent part of your artery, and you may need to take aspirin or other blood-thinning medications long-term.
After a stent placement procedure, you want to make any necessary lifestyle changes to help prevent another artery from becoming blocked. Some of the steps you can take include:
Stent placement may not only help prevent a heart attack or stroke, but it may also help you avoid more invasive surgeries.
For expert care from the premier cardiology team on Long Island and in Manhattan, contact the office nearest you by phone, or request an appointment online today.
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