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In the past few years, many refinements have been developed in the PTCA procedure. One common procedure used in PTCA is stent placement. A stent is a tiny, expandable metal coil that is inserted into the newly-opened area of the artery to help keep the artery from narrowing or closing again.
Once the stent has been placed, tissue will begin to form over it within a few days after the procedure. The stent will be completely covered by tissue within a month or so.
It is necessary to take a medication, such as aspirin or clopidogrel (Plavix), which decreases the "stickiness" of platelets (a type of blood cells that clump together to form clots to stop bleeding), in order to prevent blood clots from forming inside the stent.
Newer stents (drug-eluting stents, or DES) are coated with medication to prevent the formation of scar tissue inside the stent. These drug-eluting stents release medication within the blood vessel itself.
This medication inhibits the overgrowth of tissue that can occur within the stent. The effect of this medication is to deter the narrowing of the newly stented blood vessel.
If scar tissue does form inside the stent, radiation therapy (called brachytherapy) may be used to clear the scarred area and open up the vessel.