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What is a stent? How do you know when and where a stent is needed?

A stent is a small mesh tube that’s used to treat narrow or weak arteries. Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood away from your heart to other parts of your body. A stent is placed in an artery as part of a procedure called angioplasty. Angioplasty restores blood flow through narrow or blocked arteries. A stent helps support the inner wall of the artery in the months or years after angioplasty. Doctors also may place stents in weak arteries to improve blood flow and help prevent the arteries from bursting.

Stents usually are made of metal mesh, but sometimes they’re made of fabric. Fabric stents, also called stent grafts, are used in larger arteries. Some stents are coated with medicine that is slowly and continuously released into the artery. These stents are called drug-eluting stents. The medicine helps prevent the artery from becoming blocked again.

Stents are usually recommended in patients who have ongoing chest pain despite medications. A stent is inserted into the coronary artery which is the vessel that supplies blood to the heart. Stents are also used to open up other blockages, such as blockages in the blood vessels supplying blood to the legs.

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