Health & Science

President George W. Bush’s Stent Procedure Explained

Former president George W. Bush had a stent inserted into an artery in his heart this morning. The procedure was performed at a hospital in Dallas.

A cardiac stent is a tiny tube made of wire mesh.

Doctors thread it through your blood vessels, usually through a small opening in the groin.

First they open the blocked artery by inflating a small balloon, then implant the stent to keep the artery propped open.

Dr. Neal Kleiman is an interventional cardiologist with Houston Methodist.

“A good analogy is if you look at air-conditioning duct work. Sometimes a soft air-conditioning duct has a series of coils that run through it to prevent it from collapsing. The stent works on the same principal.”

Plain-wire stents were first used in the early 1990s. Since then they’ve evolved.

Some are coated with slow-release drugs that prevent scar tissue from forming a new blockage.

New experiments are being done with stents that dissolve and eventually disappear.

At the Houston Methodist Hospital, doctors perform about one thousand stenting procedures a year for blocked arteries.

“I mean look this is one of the most common if not the most common chronic disease in the US. The older you are the more likely you are to get it. Some of it’s under your control, some of it’s not. We see this in athletes too, this has been found in the Pharaohs.”

Stents are also being used to control bulging arteries, or to replace heart valves.

But Kleiman says stents are not for everyone or for every type of blocked blood vessel. Stents are easier to do than open-heart surgery, but sometimes they fail and blockages recur.

Sometimes bypass surgery is the better option, and sometimes just managing narrow arteries with medication.

“I think stent or not, you’ve got to take your meds if needed. You’ve got to take care of yourself. There’s no escaping it, we’re all living beyond the factory warranty. But look I wish President Bush well, people with stents generally do very well.”

Bush is expected to be discharged tomorrow and return to his normal schedule.