A heart stent is a small tube used to treat narrowed arteries or strengthen weakened arteries, as defined by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Stent manufacturers use metal mesh or fabric to produce these tubes.
Arteries supply other parts of the body with oxygen-rich blood, states WebMD. In some people, a mixture of cholesterol and fat, called plaque, builds up on the walls of the arteries. This causes narrowing or blockages, according to MedlinePlus. Physicians use stents to treat blockages in people who have already had heart attacks, people at risk of heart attacks and those who have persistent chest pain not controlled by medications.
A stent is placed in the narrowed or blocked artery during a procedure called angioplasty. During this procedure, a physician cuts into one of the arteries in the upper leg, wrist, arm or groin. After threading a catheter to the heart, the physician injects dye into the catheter to make it easier to see any blockages, according to MedlinePlus. Once a blockage is identified, the physician uses a balloon catheter and guide wire to open the vessel. If necessary, the physician uses the balloon catheter to place a stent inside the artery. The stent prevents the artery from becoming blocked again in the future.