Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: Does a collapsed stent need fixing?

Ask the doctor

Does a collapsed stent need fixing?

Q. About 10 years ago, after being unexpectedly short of breath a few times, my brother had a stent put in during an angioplasty procedure. He has been fine since. During a routine visit to his cardiologist, he was told he had a blockage in the vicinity of the stent. A CT scan showed that the stent had collapsed but blood was passing through arteries around the stent. Both my brother's doctor and a cardiologist he saw for a second opinion said the stent cannot be replaced and, since my brother isn't having any symptoms, told him not to worry about it. This doesn't sound right to me. Shouldn't a stent be replaced if it is defective?

A. Although most stents work like they're supposed to, the technology isn't foolproof. Occasionally, a stent doesn't open completely during implantation, making it more likely that problems will develop later. A more common problem is blockage of the stent caused by the body's healing response. The blockage can be partial or total.

Once a stent is placed in a coronary artery, it can't be taken out. Cardiologists can perform procedures to reopen a problematic stent, and sometimes even put a new stent inside an older one, but removal isn't an option.

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