Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) – Stents (Percutaneous Coronary Intervention)
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Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common form of heart disease in Canada. It occurs when the coronary arteries (blood vessels) that carry blood away from your heart get blocked with plaque. Over time, plaque can thicken and harden inside your arteries, blocking the flow of blood to your heart. This thickening is called atherosclerosis (say: “ath-uh-roe-skluh-roe-suhs”). If your heart doesn’t get enough blood to work properly, you may have angina (chest pain) or a heart attack.
Path to improved health
If you have CAD and plaque build-up in your arteries, your doctor may want to insert a stent. A stent will help hold the artery open so blood can flow. It may also help keep the artery from narrowing again.
A stent is a small rod made out of metal or fabric. There are two types of stents:
- Bare-metal stent: This is a stent made of metal that is placed in the artery to help hold it open. Over time, the artery will heal and tissue will grow over the stent, holding it in place.
- Drug-eluting stent: A drug-eluting stent is a metal stent that is coated in a medicine. The medicine is slowly released and may help prevent excess tissue from growing over the stent. Excess tissue can cause the artery to narrow again, restricting blood flow.
Stents are placed during a procedure called a Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI, formerly known as angioplasty with stent). You will be awake during the procedure, but you will be given medicine to help you relax. The healthcare provider will freeze your groin or wrist area. The area will be numb so that you will not feel pain. A small tube, called a catheter, will be inserted into the artery. On the tip of the catheter is a small, deflated balloon. The healthcare provider will put the stent around the deflated balloon. The catheter will be carefully guided into the artery and up to the point where there is a blockage. The balloon will be inflated to help stretch out the artery and allow blood to flow. This also expands the stent, which locks into place to permanently help support the artery. Once the stent is in place, the balloon is deflated and the catheter and balloon will be removed.
After PCI, you may have to stay in the hospital for a day while your heart is monitored. You will be given medicine to keep clots from forming and to relax your arteries. The place where the incision was made may be sore or tender.
Once you go home, you’ll need to take medicine that keeps the stent open and blood flowing. It’s important to take the medicine exactly as your healthcare tells you.
In addition to taking medicine, the best way to keep your heart healthy is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Your healthcare provider can help you to do the following:
- Quit smoking.
- Make sure you keep your blood pressure and cholesterol at healthy levels.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet.
Things to consider
Once you go home, you will need to rest and relax. You will not be able to exercise or lift heavy objects for about a week. Your healthcare provider will tell you what you can and cannot do while you recover at home.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Nova Scotia Toll free 1-800-423-4432
Prince Edward Island: (902) 892-7441