Contemporary medicine has made stunning clinical advancements in the development of heart surgery. One of these developments is the modern stent, a medical marvel that allows for continued blood flow through arteries or veins. The stent alleviates the blockage in a plaque-obstructed blood vessel. But you may be wondering, how long do stents last?
It’s only natural for one to be concerned about a device within a blood vessel. And in this post, we’ll explore how stents work, what they’re made of, and how long they last.
What is a Stent, and What Does It Do?
A stent is a tube that sits inside the opening (lumen) of a blood vessel or other bodily duct. It serves to keep the passage open for the intended fluid (e.g., blood) to pass through the lumen unobstructed.
Coronary stents reside commonly inside coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply the heart with oxygenated blood. The formation of plaque, composed of fats and cholesterol, can narrow or even block these arteries (atherosclerosis.) Without free passage of blood through the coronary arteries, the cardiac muscle starves for blood. This blood starvation causes chest pain (angina), can cause a heart attack, and can be fatal.
A coronary stent expands the lumen of the affected blood vessel. A surgeon inserts the stent during a coronary angioplasty; this procedure involves placing the stent over a deflated balloon guided into the vessel using a wire. Next, they inflate the balloon, expand the stent to its operational size, and open up the blood vessel.
Stent designers build them to last out of exotic materials, such as superelastic nickel-titanium alloy (nitinol), 316L stainless steel, cobalt-chromium alloys, platinum, gold, or tantalum alloys. However, stents are sometimes polymer.
How Long Do Stents Last?
The natural question concerns the longevity of a stent.
Stents themselves are effectively permanent. Once they’re installed, they are not removed unless a complication arises. Their construction is robust, and failure rates are low. Of course, this depends on the individual undergoing insertion, as well as many other factors.
It’s important to note that stents elicit an immune response from the body because they’re foreign objects deep inside your cardiovascular vessels. Scar tissue can grow around the contact points of the stent and the inner wall of the artery – this is solved by using a drug-eluting stent. These stents slowly diffuse a drug that serves to impede cell proliferation, decreasing the amount of scar tissue that forms around it.
Experts witness that it is not usually the stent itself that causes issues, even several years after insertion, but the appearance of another blockage that requires reintervention.
Atherosclerosis, or plaque deposits narrowing the arteries, must be dealt with by making lifestyle changes. These include maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, quitting smoking and alcohol, and taking medications as instructed. Otherwise, high cholesterol, obesity, and high blood pressure will continue to cause plaque buildup.
In conclusion, we can say that stents are effectively permanent. Perhaps the more prudent question is how to prevent another visit to the hospital. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle helps prevent further blockages from occurring. In addition, our expert physicians at Epic Heart and Vascular Center specialize in the subject if you happen to have any questions. So do give us a call at our Houston, TX location at (832) 432-1951 or our Kingwood, TX location at (832) 952-1952, and we’ll be glad to help.