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What is a Nitinol Stent?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2016
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A nitinol stent is a medical device a doctor may insert to open a patient's blood vessel to relieve a blockage and promote the free flow of blood through the vessel. A number of conditions may call for the use of a stent to reduce the risks of stroke, myocardial infarction, and other potential issues associated with limited blood flow and blocked blood vessels. The stent implant procedure takes place in a hospital or clinic environment where medical staff can monitor the patient during the placement.

Nitinol is an alloy of nickel and titanium. It has a number of properties that make it very suitable for stenting. The first is resistance to corrosion, and a low risk of rejection in the body. The second is the memory of this metal. Nitinol stents arrive in a compressed form, and the doctor opens them up in the patient's body, relying on the metal's memory to snap the stent into shape and hold that shape as long as the stent is in place.

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Typically, a nitinol stent comes in a package with a special catheter for stent insertion. The doctor places the patient under sedation for comfort and threads the catheter into place. Doctors may rely on medical imaging to help them place the catheter properly. Once the doctor has the stent in the right place, he can open it up to push the walls of the blood vessel open and allow blood to flow freely through it. The stent consists of a fine mesh that will hold the vessel open.

A patient with a nitinol stent will need to take blood thinners to prevent clots. While the body does not usually reject the stent, the mesh can create a medium for blood to clot on, creating a blockage. Patients with bleeding disorders or a history of bad reactions to blood thinners are not good candidates for stenting, as the maintenance treatment would create risks for them. It will also be necessary to periodically reevaluate the blood vessel to make sure the nitinol stent is still working and check for any signs of complications.

When a doctor recommends a nitinol stent, patients can ask about the available alternatives along with their risks and benefits. Depending on the reason for stenting, a doctor may have several suggestions for a patient to choose from. It can be helpful to get information about a doctor's complication rate with various options so patients can make an informed decision about their care.

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