You should recover from a stent procedure by resting, staying away from vigorous physical activity, and following your doctor’s recommendations for medication.
Many patients are able to recover from a stent and return to work within a week, though it may take longer for others.
You’ll also want to look out for the signs of common complications after a stent, and implement any lifestyle changes that originally caused a blockage in your arteries.
This article was reviewed by John Osborne, MD, PhD, and the Director of Cardiology for Dallas-based State of the Heart Cardiology.
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Recovering from an angioplasty and stenting procedure is typically a brief process, but there are some common complications to watch out for.
Here’s what you need to know about the recovery process after a stent is implanted, and when you should notify your doctor about any complications.
You’ll have physical limitations after a stent procedure
A stent procedure usually doesn’t take more than 60 minutes, and most patients will be released from the hospital in one or two days.
According to Sanjiv Patel, MD, an interventional cardiologist at MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center, many patients can even return to a sedentary office job within a few days to a week after the procedure.
However, you shouldn’t lift more than 10 to 15 pounds for about a week after the procedure, and if your job requires manual labor or being on your feet all day, you should talk with your doctor before returning to work.
After receiving a stent, it is normal to feel tired or a bit weak for a few days, and it’s not uncommon to experience some pain or soreness at the catheter site. If you received a stent because of a heart attack, you will likely feel tired for several weeks, Patel says.
While you should be able to resume daily activities, like walking, eating, and daily hygiene shortly after the procedure, it’s wise to wait a bit longer for exercise or more rigorous activity.
“Be smart about what you do at home,” Patel says. “In the beginning for recovery purposes, take it easy for a week or two and ease back into physical activities.”
Know the risk of complications and when to contact your doctor
The risk of complications depends on your health before the procedure, Patel says. Your risk is increased if you have kidney issues, are on dialysis to treat failing kidneys, have diabetes, have had a prior stroke, are over the age of 70, or have experienced a heart attack.
Regardless of whether you notice any signs of complications, you should expect to follow up with your doctor within seven to 10 days of your stent placement. Here’s what to look out for:
Clotting. Following your stent procedure, you will likely be instructed to take aspirin and an antiplatelet medication to help reduce clotting of the stent, which can cause a heart attack or death.
Bleeding or Infection. Patel says you should contact your doctor if you experience excessive bleeding or bruising at the catheter site or you develop a fever, as this can be a sign of infection.
Restenosis. In the weeks to months after a stent is implanted, scar tissue may grow into the stent and cause a gradual blockage. This risk is less than 10% for those who receive a drug-eluting stent coated with medication that helps prevent the growth of scar tissue, but the risk is doubled if a non-medicine-coated stent is used (though these “bare-metal” stents are no longer common).
Stroke. While it is a potential risk factor, it isn’t very common, occurring in less than 1% of cases.
Perforation of the artery. This is also rare, occurring in 0.2% to 0.6% of cases, but can be deadly if left untreated.
Lifestyle adjustments are crucial after a stent
Once you have recovered from your angioplasty and stenting procedure, it is important to address what caused the plaque build-up in your artery that originally led to the blockage, Patel says.
If you’re a smoker, work on quitting, exercise 30 to 45 minutes a day, and avoid foods high in sodium. Patel also recommends treating other risk factors that can cause blocked arteries, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
For more information, read our articles on how to lower blood pressure and how to lower cholesterol.
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