If you had percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) (stent placed in one of your coronary arteries), most likely, it was because you had narrowed arteries that restricted the blood flow leading to your heart. The stent was put in place to help restore normal blood flow. The stent may be a plain wire mesh (called a bare-metal stent) or it may be what’s called a drug-eluting stent, meaning that the stent is coated with a medication that reduces the risk your artery will become blocked again.
Soon after the stent procedure, you should notice relief from your chest pain (angina), be breathing better and have more energy. However, having angioplasty and stenting doesn’t mean that your heart disease has disappeared. That’s why now is an important time to make sure you take good care of your heart and stent. Here are a few things you can do to when you return home from the hospital after your stent procedure to maintain good health.
Depending on where your doctor inserted the catheter, you will have a small incision (cut) on your leg or arm. While the insertion site is small, you still need to take care of it and watch for signs of bleeding or infection.
Contact your doctor’s office or hospital if you notice any of the following:
After your procedure, your doctor will likely prescribe you aspirin along with another antiplatelet medication. If you have a bare-metal stent, your doctor may recommend that you take these medications for one month; if you have a drug-eluting stent, you may need to take these medications for a year or longer.
These medications are essential because they protect you from possible complications, such as clots forming which can lead to heart attack or stroke, and let the stent do its jobs of keeping your artery open and your blood flowing normally.
Review all medications, supplements and over-the-counter drugs you take with all your doctors and your pharmacist. You want to make sure that the combination doesn’t put you at risk for dangerous interactions. (It’s smart to get your meds all from one pharmacy, so cross checks are easier to do.) Be sure to tell any health care professional who is treating you that you are taking anti-clotting medications.
When you first come home from the hospital, don’t do any heavy lifting or vigorous physical activity to avoid putting unnecessary strain on your heart. Your doctor will let you know when you’re cleared to return to normal activities.
However, with your doctor’s okay, regular exercise will be an important part of keeping your heart healthy long term. Work with your doctor or another member of your care team to develop a plan to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five or more days a week.
In the weeks and months after your stent procedure, you will have regular appointments with your cardiologist to make sure you’re healing well, your stent is doing its job properly and your medications are effective. Eventually, your doctor may take you off some of your antiplatelet medication, but you may recommend you stay on aspirin indefinitely. Depending on the type of stent you received, yearly imaging tests may be recommended to get a good look at how the stent is performing.
Taking all your medications as prescribed along with good follow-up care and other healthy lifestyle changes can help you stay strong and heart-healthy in the months and years following your stent procedure.
Published August 6, 2014