Any list of the advantages and disadvantages of balloon stenting may not feel like a fair fight. The advantages heavily outweigh the disadvantages, but we do commonly have questions from patients about the risks of balloon stenting, so it’s worth addressing. Before we do, a brief overview of the procedure will help bring everyone into a similar understanding of the process.
Balloon stenting is a procedure during which a metal device is implanted into a patient’s artery to widen it and increase blood flow. The balloon stenting procedure is only minimally invasive and the recovery is generally very short. A small incision is made at the site of a major artery, most often in the groin or neck area of the patient. Then a small catheter is threaded through the artery until it gets to the blockage. Upon reaching the blockage a balloon at the end of the catheter expands to push the accumulated plaque up against the walls of the artery to make enough room for blood to flow. Finally, a small metal stent is inserted into that location to hold the artery open.
Most patients are released from the hospital within 24 hours of a balloon stenting procedure. The details of each person’s recovery depends upon their health leading up to the balloon stenting procedure. Your cardiologist will be able to provide you much more specific information about your particular case.
Now that we are on the same page about what takes place during a balloon stenting procedure, we can get to the many questions that we receive about the advantages and disadvantages of it.
Advantages of Balloon Stenting
Balloons stenting is a way to stop arterial plaque in its tracks. When your cardiologist recommends this procedure it Is generally before any dramatic health events take place. You may be experiencing angina or other physical symptoms of clogged arteries, but hopefully, by widening your arteries we can prevent having to have a more serious procedure in the future. A huge advantage of balloon stenting is that it’s not open-heart surgery. That may seem overly simplistic, but by addressing issues like this early you can protect the long-term health of your heart.
Additionally, as we mentioned before the recovery time for this procedure is relatively short for most people. This is excellent for very active people or busy professionals for whom taking a long medical absence could be devastating, or at the least irritating.
Another advantage that we hear from patients regularly is the immediate results that they feel from their balloon stenting treatment. When blood is unable to make its way through your arteries due to a buildup of plaque, it forces your heart to work even harder to move blood throughout your body. This can cause physical discomfort, a sense of exhaustion, and even lightheadedness. The pressure that is relieved from your heart after a balloon stenting procedure is significant and noticeable.
An incredible advantage of having a stent in your body is that they can last forever. These very small devices are metal and meant to live with you through the rest of your life. That means that assuming you maintain a healthy lifestyle, you may never have to have this issue readdress as long as you’re alive. Can you imagine a better result from heart surgery than that?
Disadvantages of Balloon Stenting
The disadvantages of balloon stenting are fewer but very important to review. To start with it’s very unfortunate to share with you that stents are not magic. Of course, we say this in jest, but time and again we see patients who unfortunately did not address the lifestyle issues that led to their heart condition and the stent wasn’t able to keep up with them.
The existence of a stent doesn’t mean that arterial plaque will never grow back, it simply means that the previous arterial plaque won’t continue to be a health risk for you. When arterial plaque grows back it is called restenosis, and it occurs in at least a quarter of patients. If you move forward after your surgery with a focus on developing a healthy lifestyle you’re more likely to not fall into this unfortunate category. By a healthy lifestyle, we mean a clean diet, regular exercise, low stress, no cigarette smoking, and limited consumption of alcohol. Your cardiologist will likely share the importance of your commitment to these changes before you even undergo this procedure.
The additional disadvantages of this procedure are all risks based upon your health, and your selection of an excellent cardiology team. There is a chance that the site of insertion may become infected, or that your artery may tear or develop a hole. These side effects are uncommon and are important reminders of why it matters to surround yourself with the best medical team. Balloon stenting is a fairly common procedure, and a well-trained team of cardiologists can help reduce your risks during and after the surgery.
Balloon stenting is one of those modern marvels of medical technology that gives patients the opportunity to reverse some of the arterial plaque that has accumulated throughout their lives. If you are preparing to undergo this procedure and have additional questions feel free to contact our office at any time. It’s our mission to help our patients feel, informed, comfortable, and confident in their cardiology care.