The Coronary Stent Procedure

Coronary stent placement is a routine procedure at the Cardiac Cath/Special Procedures Lab at Tucson Medical Center. A doctor performs a coronary angiogram (heart catheter) so he can see the inside of your coronary arteries. This angiogram gives the physician a picture of your arteries to help determine if a coronary stent is required.

A coronary stent is a wire mesh tube that is used to "prop-up" the sides of a narrowed artery. Picture 1 is an actual image that shows a narrowing (stenosis) of the right coronary artery. When an artery narrows in this way, it cannot supply the needed blood to the heart muscle because the blood flow has been decreased. The patient may experience this as angina or chest pain. The goal of placing a coronary stent is to improve the flow of blood and decrease chest pain. If this condition goes untreated, the result may be a heart attack.

The stent comes pre packaged on a long tube with an attached balloon at the tip. The stent is pressed onto the balloon. The physician places the coronary stent across the narrowed portion of the artery and inflates the balloon, which deploys the stent against the sidewalls of the artery. The balloon is only used to expand the stent, which stretches the sidewalls of the narrowed artery back to normal size. Picture 2 shows the expansion of the stent by the balloon.

Once the balloon is deflated and removed from the artery, the stent stays at its expanded size. The stent will remain in the artery and will be covered by new tissue within a month. This will keep the stent permanently in place.

Picture 3 shows the same artery as above after a coronary stent placement. Notice how large the once narrowed area is. This will increase the flow of blood to your heart muscle.