Making Sense of Stents


Stents are thin, flexible mesh tubes that
can be implanted in the large arteries that supply blood to the heart, head, pelvis and
legs. They act as scaffolds to hold the arteries open and maintain adequate blood flow in patients
who have atherosclerotic plaques (“hardening of the arteries”). A stent is inserted by
placing it over a tiny balloon at the end of a thin, flexible wire called a delivery
catheter. The catheter is inserted into the artery that needs the stent. When the stent
is in place, the balloon is inflated, expanding the stent into the artery wall, where it will
remain. The balloon is then deflated and the catheter is removed from the body. FDA physiologists,
material scientists, clinicians, analytical chemists, mechanical and chemical engineers
and biostatisticians all play a role in making sure that stents are safe and effective.

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