Heart beat: Stents don't protect the entire artery

Heart beat

Stents don't protect the entire artery

Say you've just come home from the hospital with a stent or two propping open one or more cholesterol-narrowed arteries. The scare is over, your chest pain is gone, and you're taking the medications your doctor prescribed. All is right with your heart.

For now.

If you are like the average American who had a stent implanted toward the end of the 1990s, you have a 1 in 14 chance of ending up back in the hospital with chest pain — and needing another stent — within a year. The new one will hold open an entirely different stretch of coronary artery, one that looked fine the year before. These numbers, published in the January 24, 2005, Circulation, come from a registry of almost 4,000 men and women who had stents implanted at a dozen U.S. medical centers.

The more stents you needed the first time around, which indicates a heavier burden of cholesterol-filled plaque, the greater your chances of requiring another one down the road. Younger people (those under age 65) and women are more likely to have another brush with chest pain and need a repeat procedure than older individuals and men.

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