A renal artery stent is a tiny, metal mesh tube that opens the artery in your kidney to allow better blood flow to your kidney. A healthcare provider inserts the stent and angioplasties the artery to treat the renal artery blockage. This creates space inside your renal artery for better blood flow to the kidney. You should recover in about a week.
Renal artery stenting is a procedure that opens up blockages in your renal arteries — the large blood vessels that carry blood to your kidneys — as a result of renal artery stenosis. Renal artery blockages affect how blood flows to your kidneys. Stenting opens the blockage and can restore normal blood flow.
Your kidneys help control the amounts of salt and fluid in your body by filtering blood and making urine (pee). When blood can’t get to your kidneys to remove salt and water, fluid builds up in your body.
Your kidneys also release renin. Renin is a hormone that helps tell your body to keep salt and water. It also causes the blood vessels in your body to become more rigid (stiff). When your kidney senses lower blood pressure, it increases the amount of renin that it releases. A narrowed kidney artery (renal artery) tells your kidney the blood pressure is low when in fact it may be very high.
Together, this results in renal hypertension, which is a type of high blood pressure. High blood pressure puts extra strain on your heart and other organs. Renal hypertension can lead to kidney failure.
A healthcare provider will put stents in one or both of your renal arteries if they determine you have a significant blockage that requires treatment. The renal stents help prevent any further damage to your kidneys. However, not all blockages in your renal artery require stenting.
You may need a kidney stent if you have atherosclerosis (plaque collecting inside your artery) that causes a blockage within the artery greater than 60% that you can’t manage with medicines. You may be a good candidate for renal artery stenting if you have unmanaged blood pressure while taking high doses of three or more blood pressure medications.
Healthcare providers perform renal artery stenting less often today than in the past. Several large trials demonstrated that there aren’t significant benefits to renal artery stenting. But these trials didn’t include people who are most likely to benefit from renal artery stenting. This includes people with:
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Before renal artery stenting, you’ll meet with a healthcare provider. They’ll check your general health and take your vitals (temperature, pulse and blood pressure). They’ll also use certain tests to see if you need renal artery stenting. These tests may include:
Tell your healthcare provider about any prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications you’re taking. These include herbal supplements. Aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs, certain herbal supplements and blood thinners can increase your risk of bleeding. Be sure to check with a healthcare provider before stopping any medications.
Tell your healthcare provider about any allergies you have, as well. Include all known allergies. These include allergies to medications, skin cleaners like iodine or isopropyl alcohol, latex and foods.
Your healthcare provider will also give you specific directions on eating and drinking before your procedure.
Not usually. Before the procedure, a healthcare provider will insert an intravenous (IV) line into a vein in the back of your hand or arm to deliver pain medication and sedatives to your bloodstream. The sedatives help you relax before the surgery without being completely asleep. You likely won’t remember anything about the procedure while you’re under sedation.
Renal artery stenting takes place during an angiogram.
Your provider makes a tiny (usually less than an eighth of an inch) incision in your groin or arm.
Through this incision (cut), they insert a hollow tube, or sheath, into the artery in your groin or arm. They then place another type of hollow tube (catheter) into your affected renal artery through the sheath.
Once they reach the affected area of your renal artery, they may inflate a balloon to open the blockage to make room for the stent. The stent is a metal, fine mesh tube. They’ll place it across the renal artery blockage and then deploy it. It presses against the renal artery wall to move the blockage out of the way and create a larger channel for blood flow to get to your kidney. The stent stays in your body in order to maintain blood flow.
Once the stent is in place, they’ll deflate the angioplasty catheter, remove it and hold pressure over the incision or use a specialized device to close the opening in the artery. They’ll then place a bandage over the incision.
After renal artery stenting, you’ll recover at the hospital for at least a few hours. You may need to stay overnight. Healthcare providers will track your overall health, treat your pain and monitor your blood pressure levels. They may adjust your medications before letting you go home (discharge), which they’ll review with you.
Once your providers determine you’re healthy enough and no longer require monitoring, they’ll discharge you. You must have a family member or friend drive you home.
Renal artery stenting advantages include:
The risks of renal artery stenting include:
Most people feel better a few days after renal artery stent placement. Your healthcare provider will tell you how active you should be for the first few days after the procedure.
You may need to take a blood-thinning medicine to help your blood flow properly and prevent blood clots until the area around your stent heals. These medicines may include aspirin or clopidogrel. Depending on your bleeding risk, you may need to take these medicines for a month or up to a year. It’s very important that you take them, and you shouldn’t stop taking them without first talking to your provider.
Most people can return to work or school within a week after the procedure. If you have a physically demanding job that requires a lot of heavy lifting, you may need to take more time off to heal.
Sometimes, new blockages can develop in a different area of your renal artery. An artery can narrow again (restenosis), so it’s important to see your healthcare provider for all follow-up appointments.
You should also call your provider if:
Renal artery stenting fixes renal artery stenosis by enlarging a channel that allows for a lot more blood to reach the kidney. But there are multiple causes of high blood pressure, and it successfully treats only about a third of people who have hypertension or high blood pressure.
Over time, the renal artery stenosis can come back. After the procedure, a healthcare provider must periodically monitor the stent. Most people with renovascular hypertension will need to continue taking at least some blood pressure medicines even after receiving a stent.
Renal stents are permanent implants.
Renal artery stents aren’t typically painful. Some people have mild discomfort during placement. But after placement, you shouldn’t notice that you have a renal stent.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
An angioplasty and renal artery stent help restore typical blood flow to your kidneys and prevent kidney damage. After you fully recover, you won’t realize you have a stent. Be sure to take all of your medicines as prescribed by your healthcare provider and go to all of your follow-up appointments. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact your provider. They’re here to answer your questions and offer the best recommendations for your overall health.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/19/2023.
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