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Should You Choose a Drug-Eluting Stent Over Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting

Are you considering a drug-eluting stent (DES) rather than coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) to treat your blocked coronary artery. This eMedTV resource takes a look at the advantages and disadvantages of DES over CABG.

What's the Difference?

If your doctor has determined you have a coronary artery blockage, you may be hearing some pretty big medical terms such as coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) and percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) with a drug-eluting stent (DES). Finding out you have a blocked artery in your heart is shocking enough, let alone trying to grasp some of the medical terms that are being thrown around. If you are trying to research your options on whether open-heart surgery or a less invasive procedure is best for you, we're here to help sift out some of the information that is available.
So let's start by looking at what these long medical terms mean. In the most basic terms, these procedures -- CABG, PCI, and DES -- are ways to help unblock a clogged artery to help improve blood flow to your heart. These procedures are used to treat people who have coronary artery disease. This disease occurs when a waxy substance (plaque) builds up inside the coronary arteries. As plaque builds up, it can restrict or completely block the flow of blood to the heart. This leads to chest pain and potentially serious heart problems.
CABG (pronounced “cabbage”), or open-heart surgery, is one of the options to help unblock these arteries. In this surgery, a healthy artery or vein from the body is connected (grafted) to the blocked coronary artery. This connected artery or vein will then "bypass" (go around) the blocked portion of the coronary artery. This allows a new path for the blood to flow to the heart muscle. 
However, CABG isn't the only treatment option. Depending on the particular heart problem you have and the severity of it, you may also have the option for a PCI with a DES. A PCI is a nonsurgical procedure where a catheter (a long narrow tube) is inserted into into a blood vessel (usually in the groin) and threaded up to the blocked artery in the heart. This procedure involves using a small balloon that is located at the tip of the catheter (a long hollow tube) and inserting it near the blocked or narrowed part of the coronary artery. Once it’s in the right spot, the balloon is inflated and the blockage is compressed against the artery walls to make a larger opening inside the artery for improved blood flow. 
In a PCI procedure involving a DES, a small, expandable, metal mesh tube (called a stent) is inserted inside the artery to give it support to stay open. In this procedure, the balloon catheter is placed over a guide wire that is used to insert the stent into the blocked artery. “DES” means that the stent has a thin surface of medication on it to help reduce the risk of the artery narrowing back up (restenosis) after it has been opened. This medication also helps to prevent overgrowth of scar tissue that can occur with a stent. 
So is one method better than the other? Now that we have a better understanding of what these procedures involve, let's dig a little deeper into the research that's been done.
Life After a Stent: 5 Realistic Ways to Take Charge of Your Health

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