Angioplasty and stenting aren't cures. They just re-open arteries that have narrowed due to coronary artery disease. You’ll still need to take medications and make lifestyle changes to slow progression of the disease.
There are different types of stents, and the long-term results of your procedure can vary depending on which type of stent is used.
As with most medical procedures, there are risks associated with angioplasty and stents. Those include:
- Heart attack during the procedure
- Stroke caused by tissue breaking loose during the procedure
- Damage to coronary arteries during the procedure, which may require emergency bypass surgery
- Kidney damage from the contrast dye (more common if you already have kidney damage)
- Blood clots at the site of the stent (stent thrombosis). This is an uncommon complication, but potentially life threatening if it occurs. To help prevent this, you’ll be prescribed low dose aspirin and other blood-thinning medications. The risk of stent thrombosis is highest in the first month following stent placement, but it’s known to occur up to five years after the procedure (late stent thrombosis). The risk at 1 year is about 1%, from then on about 0.2% per year. Continuing medications as prescribed is the most important factor in protecting yourself against this serious complication
- Failure of the stents, resulting in the need for urgent bypass surgery. (This risk is less than 1 in 1,000)
- Restenosis: This is when too much tissue grows around the treated areas causing them to block up again. This happens in 30% of people who have angioplasty without stents. With bare metal stents the risk is 5%, and with drug eluting stents it’s less than 3%
- Allergic reaction to the contrast dye
- Infection at the catheter insertion site following the procedure
- Arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) sometimes requiring the use of a temporary pacemaker
- Pain, bruising or bleeding at the site where the catheter went into your artery.
If you need surgery in the future and are taking blood-thinning medications, be sure to tell your surgeon because they can increase the risk of bleeding during surgery.
If you have other health problems and your doctor considers the risks of the procedure are too high, you’ll be prescribed medications instead.
Ask your doctor about the results and risks associated with your procedure. Also ask about the rate of complications following the procedures they’ve performed.