Chest pain, chest pressure, shortness of breath: these can be signs of atherosclerosis causing coronary artery disease. Atherosclerosis is a build-up of plaque on the walls of your arteries. Plaque can make it harder for blood to get to your heart. When your heart isn't getting enough blood, it can't work properly.
About half of Americans ages 45 and older have some atherosclerosis but don't know it. If left untreated, it can lead to a heart attack.
At UVA Health, our team of experienced doctors, surgeons, nurses, and more work to make sure you get the most innovative and effective treatments. In fact, U.S. News & World Report has rated our heart attack and heart bypass surgery care as some of the best in the country.
Treating Atherosclerosis With Heart Stents
Atherosclerosis doesn't cause symptoms in the early stages. When symptoms do appear, it can be treated with angioplasty. This procedure inflates a balloon inside your artery to push the plaque out of the way and open your artery.
After angioplasty, surgeons might place a heart stent (also called a coronary artery stent). A stent is a tiny tube made of metal mesh. The heart stent keeps the artery open so that blood can flow more easily.
There are two types of stents. Drug-eluting stents slowly release medicine to help prevent the artery from getting blocked again. Bare-metal stents don't have any medicine on them.
What to Expect During a Heart Stent Procedure
A stent is put into your artery using a flexible tube called a catheter. First, the area where the catheter will be inserted is cleaned and numbed. Then, the surgeon uses a needle to insert a wire into your artery. X-rays help guide the wire and the catheter is moved up to the blocked artery in your heart. Dye is injected into the arteries to help see the blockage.
Once the blockage is reached, a small balloon is inflated and deflated to stretch the artery. Then, the stent is put in place to keep your artery open. The deflated balloon, catheter, and wire are removed, and pressure is applied to stop any bleeding.
The whole procedure takes between 30 minutes and 3 hours.