A coronary artery stent is inserted into a blocked artery in the heart, using a catheter. The stent is usually a small wire mesh tube, and it may be coated with medication to decrease clot formation in your arteries. A stent is placed during a procedure known as coronary angioplasty, where a tiny balloon is first inserted in your artery to open up the clot.
When Is Angioplasty and Stenting Performed?
Angioplasty is used to treat coronary artery disease. The coronary arteries are arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle, and when they become blocked with plaques from buildup of cholesterol, then clots can form and may completely stop blood flow to the heart. Your doctor may suggest angioplasty for the treatment of a heart attack or chest pain (angina) that is getting worse and not responding to medical treatment or changes in your lifestyle.
Angioplasty Is Not For Everyone
Sometimes, your may have more than one blood vessel with a significant plaque, and in these cases you may require a coronary artery bypass graft, also called a BYPASS or CABG. If you have a blockage in the left main coronary artery, or if you have heart failure, you may also have a better outcome with CABG. CABG is when your doctor takes a blood vessel from somewhere else in your body and uses it to bypass the diseased vessel or vessels.
Risks of Coronary Artery Stents
There are risks associated with this procedure, and most commonly, there is a risk of restenosis, which means the blood vessel with the stent can become narrowed once again. This happens in 30% of cases. After stenting, some patients may experience a heart attack when a blood clot forms in the stent, and other patients experience significant bleeding in the groin or the arm, where the catheter is inserted to perform angioplasty and place the stent. Rarely, you may have damage to the coronary artery during the procedure that necessitates emergency coronary artery bypass graft surgery. Your kidneys may be damaged by the dye that is used during the procedure, or you could have a stroke if a plaque in the artery breaks loose and travels to the brain. Some people may develop an abnormal heart rhythm during the procedure, sometimes requiring medication or a pacemaker.
What is an Unnecessary Stenting Procedure?
The Journal of the American Medical Association reported in 2011 that 44% of cases analyzed in one study revealed that the patients went directly to the catheterization lab, without a trial of medication or lifestyle change to see if the problem could be solved without performing a potentially risky procedure. The researchers found that half of the stents were inappropriately placed, subjecting patients to needless risks, and other researchers have states that a third of all elective heart stent procedures in the US are unnecessary. These procedures carry a much higher risk than potential benefit, and some hospitals and doctors are currently being investigated by the federal government for placing their patients at risk to bill Medicare a for a procedure with a higher fee.
If you had an unnecessary stent placed, with complications, you may be requiring extended treatment, more medications, more doctor visits, and you may have missed work and family activities. You may be experiencing pain or emotional distress as a result.
If you have had a cardiac stent placed electively and you question the necessity, you should call our office for a review of your case. If you suffered any complications, including arterial damage, infection, arrhythmia, or heart attack, you may be entitled to compensation for your injury. Call our office today for an evaluation if you are concerned about complications you experienced while undergoing coronary angioplasty and stent placement. If you did not receive counseling about possible medical options for treatment before referral for a stent, you may have been exposed unnecessarily to greater risk of injury and even death.