What Is the Difference Between a Stent and a Shunt in Heart Surgery?

A stent is a small mesh tube permanently inserted during heart surgery, says WebMD. Contrarily, a shunt is a temporary opening moving blood from one area of the heart to another, states MedlinePlus.

Heart disease, or cardiovascular disease, impairs the heart’s functionality, making it work harder than normal. The longer the heart operates in an abnormal condition, the more a narrowing of the blood vessels depletes the amount of blood flow received by the heart, the brain and any other part of the body. Narrowed or blocked blood vessels and plaque buildup inside the arteries precede diseases such as heart attack, stroke and angina, says Mayo Clinic.

Stenting, permanently opening an artery in a surgical procedure, relieves the pain a patient experiences with heart attack or angina, chest pains. A minor surgical procedure performed in a short period of time, stenting surgeries increase in severity as more stents are required to relieve the pressure, states WebMD.

Patients who are not physically able to endure open-heart surgery have the option of shunting, temporarily moving the blood from one section of the heart to another. Waiting until the patient is stronger, the physician performs open-heart surgery after closing the shunt, according to MedlinePlus.