Harvard Heart Letter

Research we're watching: Surgery after a stent: How risky?

Each year, some 600,000 people in the United States get an artery-opening stent (a tiny mesh tube used to prop open a blood vessel), usually to restore blood flow to the heart. Afterward, most take aspirin and another anti-clotting medicine for up to a year.

Within the first two years of getting a stent, an estimated one in five people needs surgery for something other than a heart problem. That can be dangerous because anti-clotting medications raise bleeding risk, but stopping the drugs boosts the risk of a blood clot.

But a new study found that within two years of getting a stent, only people who needed emergency surgery or who had advanced heart disease had an increased risk of a major cardiac event, such as a heart attack, the need for another procedure to open a heart artery, or death. People who had a stent implanted at least six months prior to noncardiac surgery didn't have a higher risk. The findings, which were based on nearly 42,000 operations in people with stents, appeared in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

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