Stents, Valves, Balloons and More: The Hardware of Heart Repair

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THERE IS A VERITABLE PLETHORA OF DEVICES DOCTORS can use to help our hearts today that didn’t exist just a few short years ago. Here are the mainstays of the cardiac physician’s toolbox.

Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs):

Portable and automatic, these devices help restore normal heart rhythm to patients in cardiac arrest. They analyze heart rhythm and can help first responders determine whether a shock is needed to restore a normal heartbeat.


Balloon angioplasty of the coronary artery, or percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA), is a nonsurgical procedure that relieves narrowing and obstruction of the coronary arteries by inserting and inflating a balloon-like device inside the artery. “This allows more blood and oxygen to be delivered to the heart muscle,” explains Chris Waterer, MD, of Baptist Heart.

Cardiac Pacemakers:

Small and battery-powered, pacemakers are implanted permanently into the body. Used when the heart beats too slowly or has other abnormal rhythms, they monitor the organ’s electrical impulses and, when needed, deliver electrical pulses to make it contract in a more normal tempo.

Prosthetic (Artificial) Heart Valves:

Used for replacing diseased or dysfunctional heart valves, these are available in two forms. “Mechanical valves are made of man-made materials and can usually last a lifetime,” says Dr. Waterer. “Biological valves are made from tissue taken from animals or human cadavers.”


Stents are small, lattice-shaped metal tubes that are inserted permanently into an artery to help improve blood flow. Some contain drugs that reduce the chance that arteries will become blocked again.


Watch our Ask The Expert episodes with WLBT on Heart Health here: