A stent is a tiny mesh tube used to prop an artery open to improve blood flow. A stent implant begins when your doctor inserts a small flexible tube called a catheter through a blood vessel in your groin or arm. During a stent implant your doctor uses a catheter with a balloon and a stent on the end. Your doctor positions the balloon with the stent over it at the site of the blockage. Your doctor opens the balloon to press the stent against your artery wall. The balloon is then deflated and removed from your body leaving the stent in place.
Stents are usually made of metal mesh, but sometimes they’re made of fabric. Fabric stents, also called stent grafts, are used in larger arteries. Some stents are coated with medicines that are slowly and continuously released into the artery. These medicines help prevent the artery from becoming blocked again.
Coronary Artery Stent Placement
The illustration shows the placement of a stent in a coronary artery with plaque buildup. The coronary artery is located on the surface of the heart. Figure A shows the deflated balloon catheter and closed stent inserted into the narrowed coronary artery. The insert image on figure A shows a cross-section of the artery with the inserted balloon catheter and closed stent. In figure B, the balloon is inflated, expanding the stent and compressing the plaque to restore the size of the artery. Figure C shows normal blood flow restored in the stent-widened artery. The insert image on figure C shows a cross-section of the compressed plaque and stent-widened artery.