I just finished reading "How Drug-Eluting Stents Keep Coronary Blood Flowing" (February 2005). The author says the chest pain associated with balloon inflation during stent placement may feel "more like a twitch than the severe pain of an MI." Having worked in a cardiac cath lab for over 8 years, I can confidently state that what patients feel can range from absolutely nothing to pain equal to that of an MI. I tell patients that they may experience pain during balloon inflation and stent deployment, but that it's usually temporary and its intensity will decrease once the vessel opens and blood flow has been reestablished. Any pain that continues will be treated with supplemental oxygen, analgesics, and nitrates or other vasodilators.
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Patients should be prepared for various likely outcomes, including significant pain. If they then have a pain-free procedure, they'll be thrilled.
Robin Wronski, RN, CCRN
New Brunswick, N.J.