Is A Stent Right For You? Questions Heart Patients Should Know To Ask

StentsIn the last 20 years, treatment options have proven so commonplace and effective in treating coronary artery disease (CAD), the most common type of heart disease, that many patients spend little time asking doctors about treatment advances and benefits. They instead limit their questions to economic or logistical matters, but an equally important question that should be asked is how quickly they can get back to their daily lives.

In fact, a recent Harris survey showed that most Americans have little information about stents until they develop CAD. So what are the other questions that patients should be asking? What are the latest developments in stent technology? What benefits do these advances offer patients? Who are the best candidates?

To answer these questions, spoke with Dr. Colin Barker of Houston Methodist Hospital and his CAD patient/stent recipient Shawna Dukes. Dukes, who is one of more than 15 million Americans living with CAD, eventually learned the right questions to ask and found the stent to be life saving. Here is what you or your loved one should know to make an informed decision when it comes to heart health. What is a stent?

Dr. Barker: A stent is a metal tube that goes inside a blocked artery and keeps it open. Coronary artery disease is blockage in the arteries around the heart that can lead to chest pain and heart attacks and the treatment for that would be putting in a stent. So, a stent is this scaffolding that goes in, props the artery open and keeps it open, and therefore relieving symptoms and also minimizing damage in the setting of patients having heart attacks. Who are the best candidates for stents?

Dr. Barker: The two main patient groups that have the most to gain from having a stent would be (1) patients who are having chest pain angina with normal activity despite living a healthy life, taking the medications and doing all the right things. A stent can relieve the obstruction and therefore get rid of the symptoms that can be very troubling and lifestyle limiting. The other group of patients where a stent can be really life saving are those that are having a heart attack. For example, if you develop chest pain or pressure, discomfort, maybe radiates to your arm, your neck or jaw and it really won’t go away, you need to seek out medical attention immediately because the sooner you get the stent inserted the less risk there is for permanent heart damage.

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