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October 6, 2013

ED VASICEK: Stents and hardware

Doctors implant screws, springs, stents

As the massive gener-ation of baby boomers age, stents are all the rage (I’m a poet and didn’t know it).

That bad cholesterol — if not held at bay by enough good cholesterol — can cause our arteries to plug up with plaque. Plugged arteries can result in heart attacks or strokes.

Stents are the preferred way to open the congested area. Stents typically displace the invasive, older (but still sometimes necessary) bypass surgery. Since it is almost certain that you or someone close to you will one day need a stent, it is good to understand some basics.

A few years back, doctors began using a balloon technique to force the artery to open up, but more times than not, the artery closed again once the balloon was removed. Then they got the idea to open up the artery with a balloon and insert a spring-like device to keep it open. This device is called a “stent.”

This past week, one friend of mine was undergoing a catheterization. During a catheterization, a surgeon runs a camera through your arteries and into your heart to see if you need one or more stents.

As I was visiting with this friend, after reading Scripture and offering prayer, I mentioned how I flinched every time I heard someone say “stint” instead of “stent.” I repeated my quotable to help keep things clear: “I was in the hospital for a stint to get a stent; it was quite a stunt.”

Meanwhile that same week, I heard about another friend (about my age) who has moved to Michigan; he had experienced two heart attacks before he finally went to the hospital. He had a stent procedure after the fact to prevent more attacks. Avid readers of this column might recall I received a stent in late 2006, and what a difference it has made! Yet I was particularly fortunate to get the stent before a heart attack.

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