A stent is a tiny, metal tube that holds your artery open to allow blood to go through better. Your provider can put in a stent after doing an angioplasty, which pushes aside a collection of plaque inside your artery. Stents are permanent and can keep your artery from getting too narrow again. Other kinds of stents help keep airways or ducts open.


What is a stent?

A stent is a very small tube your healthcare provider can put inside your artery to keep it open. They perform stent placement after they move plaque (cholesterol and fat) out of the way. Think of it like crowd control for your artery. It helps your blood get through more easily.

Stents are tube-shaped devices that a provider expands inside your artery during stent placement. A coronary stent can be 8 to 48 millimeters (up to almost 2 inches) long and 2 to 5 mm (up to one-quarter inch) around. This is shorter than a large paper clip and between the diameter of a new crayon tip and a new pencil eraser. Other stents can be much larger.

A stent stays inside your artery permanently (except the dissolving kind of stent). They look like tiny fishing nets. Many stents are metal, but companies use other materials to make certain kinds of stents.

Where can you get a stent?

You may think of a stent only for use in your arteries. But in addition to blood vessels, providers can use stents to keep airways, bile ducts or ureters open. Providers often use airway stents as a short-term fix until they can perform surgery.

Types of stents

Types of stents include:

  • Bare metal (nickel-titanium alloy, stainless steel or cobalt-chromium) stents. These are for blood vessels like your coronary or carotid arteries. This type of stent is an older technology.
  • Drug-eluting stents. The metal in these stents has medicine on it to help keep your coronary artery from getting narrow again. The medicine prevents scar tissue from growing in your stent in the first few months.
  • Biodegradable stents. This type is newer and in limited use. It dissolves in arteries in a few months.
  • Polyester fabric and metal stents. These are for larger arteries like your aorta.
  • Silicone stents. Providers use these for an airway of your lungs.


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Why is a stent used?

Healthcare providers use intravascular stents to keep an artery from getting too narrow or blocked, which keeps blood from going through easily. You may need one if:

What does a stent treat?

Stents help your blood vessels work better after your provider moves aside a buildup of plaque inside them. This collection of plaque can happen when you have:

Stent placement also helps people who have deep vein thrombosis (or DVT, a blood clot in your leg, arm or pelvis) or an aortic aneurysm.

How common are stents?

Each year, healthcare providers in the United States perform about 600,000 coronary (heart) stent procedures. Stent use has grown since a provider performed the first stent placement into a human heart in 1986.


What are the advantages of stents?

Advantages of stents include:

  • They help blood flow better through the artery where a provider places them.
  • Along with angioplasty, they can stop a heart attack.
  • They improve your symptoms, like shortness of breath and chest pain (when your provider places a stent in your coronary artery).
  • They may keep your artery from getting too narrow again.
  • People who have a heart stent recover faster than those who have coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG) because stent placement is a minimally invasive procedure.

What are the risks or complications of stent placement?

Serious complications rarely happen during stent placement. People with heart failure, diabetes, kidney disease or a previous artery blockage have a higher risk of serious complications.

Risks include:

  • A blood clot inside your stent, especially if you abruptly stop taking your medicines that protect the stent.
  • An allergic reaction to the stent itself or to the drug coating on it.
  • Bleeding at the location your provider used to access your blood vessel.
  • Infection.
  • A tear inside your artery.
  • Abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia).
  • A stent leaking or moving out of place.
  • Lung collapse (pneumothorax).
  • Restenosis (your artery gets narrow again later).
  • Heart attack or cardiac arrest.
  • Stroke.


Additional Common Questions

Will I need to take medication because I have a stent?

Yes, your provider will prescribe antiplatelets to keep platelets from collecting in your stent. If they can’t gather, they can’t form a blood clot that could block your artery. You may need to take aspirin for life and another type of medicine for a year or more. Providers call this dual antiplatelet therapy because it uses two kinds of medicine.

Researchers are studying how long people need to take these medications. Providers prescribing these need to consider various factors, like your age, sex, lifestyle, other medical conditions and the specific type of stent you received.

Don’t stop taking this medicine until your provider tells you to.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

You may feel a little uneasy about a provider placing a manufactured part in your body. When you think of it that way, it sounds like something from a superhero comic book. But providers have been using stents for decades and the companies that make them keep improving them over time. You may feel more at ease with a stent if you learn more about it and ask your provider any questions you have.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 05/05/2024.

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