A stent is a thin mesh tube used for treating weak or narrow arteries, and it helps restore blood flow by supporting the inside of the artery for months or years after a percutaneous coronary intervention, also called coronary angioplasty, explains the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Doctors sometimes use drug-eluting stents that gradually release medicine into the artery to prevent recurring blockage.
During a percutaneous coronary intervention, a doctor creates a tiny opening in a blood vessel in the patient's neck, arm or groin, explains the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. He then inserts a flexible tube known as a catheter with a deflated balloon at its edge and a stent placed around it. The doctor pushes the end of the catheter to the aortic tear site, aneurysm or narrow part of the artery.
After determining narrow or blocked regions in the artery using a special dye, the doctor positions the catheter to these areas and inflates the balloon, pressing the plaque against the wall of the artery and restoring blood flow in the artery narrowed by plaque, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The stent expands and stays in place in the artery, allowing the artery cells to grow and surround the mesh of the stent.
Stents are typically made from metal mesh, but some stents are made from fabric, notes the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Doctors typically use fabric stents in bigger arteries.