The heart stent has gotten a lot of attention lately due to former President Bill Clinton's recent heart stent operation in New York. The surgery was designed to open up some blocked arteries and veins in his heart. What is a heart stent and how did it save the former president's life?

A heart stent, also called a coronary stent is a smell mesh wire tube used to act as a scaffolding to prop up arteries during angioplasty surgery. Essentially, a heart stent is designed to keep an artery or vein open, allowing blood to continue pumping to that part of the heart.

There are two types of stents: drug-eluting stents and bare metal stents. Drug-eluding stents are coated with drugs that are slowly released into the artery and prevent the blood vessel from reclosing. Heart stent not coated with drugs are called bare metal stents

Once the stent is placed in the heart, is it there for the rest of your life as it holds it open to allow blood to flow to heart muscle and relieve symptoms of angina (chest pain). The goal is to have the body's own lining, in this case the arterial endothelium, to grow over the metal mesh of the stent.

During heart surgery stent, the guidewire and the associated stent are inserted not through your chest, but usually through an artery in your leg, arm, or wrist. Most doctors typically thread the catheter through the leg, but other doctors have begun practicing radial artery access, which goes through the wrist. As the doctor gently threads the stent catheter into your artery and through your heart, he is looking for the point where the artery is blocked. Once the blocked area is reached.

Once the doctor has confirmed the area and exact size of the blockage, they thread a guidewire through that same artery in the leg (or arm or wrist) and direct it to the blockage. When the catheter reaches the blockage, a balloon is inflated and as the balloon expands, it presses against the arterial plaque, opening the artery wall. The procedure ends when the balloon is deflated and the catheter is removed. The stent procedure usually takes about 1 - 3 hours, and most patients will spend the night in the hospital.

Heart stents haven't been without controversy. The New England Journal of Medicine suggests that in the end, stents can be either good or bad, depending on the patient's specific needs. However, for many people around the world suffering from heart disease, stents will continue to be a first-line defense to prevent the onset of a potentially fatal heart attack.