Drug-eluting stents: Do they increase heart attack risk?

The most common type of heart stent is generally considered safe and effective when used with anti-clotting medication.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

A stent is a small mesh tube inserted into an artery to keep it open. A drug-eluting stent is coated with a slow-release medication to help prevent blood clots from forming in a stent.

Blood clotting in a stent can cause a future blockage (restenosis) and may lead to a heart attack.

Stents without a drug coating are called bare-metal stents.

Drug-eluting stent safety

Today, new and improved versions of drug-eluting stents are considered safe and effective in most instances, when used with anti-clotting medication as prescribed. In general, drug-eluting stents are less likely to cause restenosis than are bare-metal stents.

A drug-eluting stent is the most common type of stent used to treat a blockage of the heart arteries. Many people with heart problems have been successfully treated with drug-eluting stents, preventing the need for more-invasive procedures, such as coronary artery bypass surgery. A heart doctor (cardiologist) places a stent during coronary angioplasty, also called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI). In this procedure, a thin, flexible tube (catheter) with a balloon on the tip is inserted in a blood vessel. The balloon is temporarily inflated to widen the blocked artery and improve blood flow. Sometimes, a drug-coated balloon is used.

If you have chest pain due to a blocked heart artery, a drug-eluting stent can reduce your symptoms and prevent the need for repeat angioplasty procedures.

What to consider before getting a drug-eluting stent

If you have a history of bleeding problems, a drug-eluting stent may not be a good option for you. After drug-eluting stent placement, you need to take aspirin and a stronger prescription blood thinner such as clopidogrel (Plavix) to prevent blood clotting in the stent. You may need to take a daily aspirin for the rest of your life.

Your doctor will give you additional instructions on what to expect before and after dr