Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: How is a blocked stent fixed?

Ask the doctor

How is a blocked stent fixed?

Q. What happens when a stent gets clogged up? Someone told me that a new one gets put over the plugged-up one, but that doesn't sound right.

A. The procedure you are asking about isn't an unusual one. Ever since the wire-mesh tubes known as stents were first used to prop open arteries after they were cleared of cholesterol-filled plaque, doctors have had to figure out how to open clogged stents. The most common method is to maneuver a drug-coated stent wrapped around a balloon into the middle of the closed-up stent. Inflating the balloon pushes aside the material obstructing the old stent and opens the new one. This often, but not always, solves the problem for good.

Reopening a blocked stent can often be done in a single procedure. Sometimes, though, it is necessary to use a tiny drill to cut through the obstruction, or a balloon to widen the opening before deploying a new stent.

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