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Peripheral Arterial Stent

Peripheral arterial angioplasty is a procedure done to treat a narrowed or blocked artery in an arm or leg. This brings blood flow back to the arm or leg. It also helps ease symptoms. Sometimes a metal mesh tube called a stent may be put in the artery. This holds the artery open. The procedure is done by a specially trained doctor called an interventional radiologist.

Before the procedure

Cross section of artery in muscle with stent in place to hold artery open. Arrow shows improved blood flow.

Follow any instructions you are given on how to get ready. This includes:

  • Follow any directions you’re given for not eating or drinking before the procedure.

  • Tell the technologist what medicine, herbs, or supplements you take. Also tell the technologist if you are or may be pregnant. Tell him or her if you are allergic to X-ray dye (contrast medium) or other medicines.

During the procedure

  • An IV (intravenous) line is put into a vein. This is to give you fluids and medicines. You may be given medicine to help you relax and make you sleepy. Medicine will be put on the skin where the incision will be done. This is to keep you from feeling pain at the site.

  • A very small cut (incision) is made at the insertion site. A thin, flexible tube (catheter) is put through the incision into the artery. The radiologist watches the movement of the catheter on a video monitor.

  • Contrast medium is injected through the catheter into the artery. This helps the artery show clearly on X-ray images. The radiologist uses these images as a guide. He or she moves the catheter to the narrowed or blocked part of the artery.

  • When the catheter reaches the narrowed or blocked area, the radiologist inflates a special balloon attached to the catheter. This is called angioplasty. Inflating the balloon widens the passage through the artery.

  • Sometimes the artery won't stay open after the angioplasty. In this case, a stent is needed. A catheter with a stent attached is threaded through the artery. When the stent is in the right position, it is opened.

  • When the procedure is done, all catheters and balloons are removed. The stent stays in place. Pressure is put on the insertion site for 15 minutes to stop bleeding.

After the procedure

  • Your doctor or nurse will tell you how long to lie down and keep the insertion site still.

  • You may stay in the hospital for a few hours or overnight.

  • Drink plenty of fluids to help flush the contrast medium from your system.

  • After you go home, care for the insertion site as directed.

  • You may need to take aspirin or anticoagulant medication after the procedure to help prevent blood clots in the stent. Talk with your health care provider about this.


Possible risks and complications

  • Bruising at the catheter insertion site

  • Damage to the artery. This includes worsening of the blockage.

  • Problems because of contrast medium. These include allergic reaction or kidney damage.

  • Artery becomes blocked again (restenosis). This often happens within 6 to 18 months.


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