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How Does a Heart Stint Work?

By Amanda Dickerson ; Updated July 27, 2017

Installing the Stint

When an artery has become blocked, a cardiac (heart) stint is frequently the treatment used. Heart stints are installed in 70 percent of coronary angioplasty surgeries. The stint is a tube made of metal mesh. The stint is collapse around the angioplasty balloon. During surgery the balloon is inserted into an artery and guided into place. Once it has reached the blockage the balloon is inflated and the mesh expands. It locks in an open position and remains. The angioplasty balloon is deflated and removed from the patient.

Once Inflated

With the mesh expanded, the block is pressed between the metal and the inside wall of the vein the blood is able to move freely. There are two kinds of cardiac stints: metal and drug-eluting. The drug-eluting stints are coated with medication over the metal that will dissolve slowly and help prevent the stint from becoming blocked by new cholesterol deposits. Within a few weeks the lining inside the vein will grow over the stint, helping to keep it in place.

Maintaining the Stint

For at least 4 weeks after the surgery, patients should not be exposed to an MRI. The magnetic field of the MRI can cause the metal mesh to become dislodged. Stints are at risk of getting clogged. To maintain the open artery, blood thinners such as aspirin and clopidogrel are used. Diets low in cholesterol will also help extend the life of the stint.

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