Stents of Steel

Learn more about the longevity of stents

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The development of stents for coronary artery diseases was the big news in cardiology in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  A stent is a little mesh cylinder that is slipped into a coronary artery to hold it open the same way structural steel holds a building erect.  Stents are deployed as the final phase of a procedure known as a balloon angioplasty, which expands a tiny balloon inside a narrowed coronary artery, widening the passage by flattening the fatty buildup.  When the balloon is deflated, the stent is opened up to keep the passage opened permanently.  Many stents are made of stainless steel. Some, known as drug-eluting stents, are covered with medicine that keeps them from getting thick and sticky with platelets.

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TBE recently heard from a 69-year-old man who’d had “a double-bypass and four stents placed in various locations of the carotid arteries and circumflex.” This reader looked forward to living to age 80 (and we hope longer). He had a question.  “With proper diet and medical screening, how long do the stents last in the arteries?”

We passed his query on to Steven Nissen, MD, chair of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Nissen had good news: “There is no time limit on the durability of stents. In patients who receive excellent medical care, a stent can last for decades. The first stents were placed in about 1990 (21 years ago) and some of those patients are still going strong. Good luck and stay healthy.”

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