Heart and Vascular Health What Is a Stent, and Why Would I Need One? By Heart and Vascular Institute, July 19, 2018 A stent is a tiny wire mesh tube that holds an artery, blood vessel, or duct open to provide better blood flow for your heart. Learn more about services at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute. Why Is a Stent Used for Cardiovascular Care? When a coronary artery is clogged, it can reduce blood flow to the heart which can cause injury to the heart muscle and symptoms such as chest pain. When a coronary artery becomes completely blocked, it prevents blood flow to the heart and can result in a heart attack. Stents are used to help increase blood flow in blocked coronary arteries to decrease damage to the heart. What Happens When I Get a Stent? According to the American Heart Association, doctors might perform a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), also known as a coronary angioplasty if there is significant arterial blockage. This procedure involves inserting a balloon-tipped catheter into the artery. When the catheter reaches the blockage, the balloon is inflated to compress the plaque and open the artery to increased blood flow. If the artery is successfully opened, the balloon is deflated and the catheter is removed. If a stent is needed, the stent is placed around the balloon catheter. When the balloon expands at the blockage, the stent expands and locks into place, forming a backbone for the previously blocked artery. A stent stays in place permanently. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, after a coronary stent procedure, you will need antiplatelet therapy, such as taking aspirin, to keep blood clots from forming in the stent. What Are the Advantages of a Stent for the Heart? A stent increases blood flow to the heart muscle, potentially decreasing the risk of heart attack. If someone is having a heart attack, stents placed quickly enough can decrease the damage done to the heart muscle.