Recovery After Stent Procedure: What to Expect

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Senior Caucasian man drinking water or lemonade on front porch

The cardiac catheterization procedure to place a heart stent is much less invasive than heart bypass surgery, but it still carries a significant risk of complications like bleeding. In general, you can expect to return to work and normal activities in as few as three days.

However, heart stent recovery time varies widely from person to person. Knowing what to expect about restrictions after stent placement and common self-care activities after your discharge from the hospital will allow you to focus on getting better quickly to resume your normal life.

Incision Site Care After a Stent Procedure

When you go home, you will have an incision in your groin or arm, depending on where your doctor inserted the heart catheter. This incision could potentially open and bleed or become infected, so it’s important you keep it clean and avoid straining it.

To care for your incision:

  • Wash the incision daily with mild soap and water. You can do this in the shower, if you like. Apply the soapy water using the palm of your hand and rub gently—do not scrub the incision.

  • If instructed by your doctor, apply antibiotic ointment to the wound. Otherwise, avoid applying any kind of ointment, lotion or cream to the incision.

  • Apply a small adhesive bandage to the incision site each day after cleansing.

  • Avoid soaking in a bath or hot tub for at least a week after the procedure, as this can slow wound healing.

Your incision site may be swollen and bruised at first, but this should slowly improve over time. If your incision site progressively becomes more swollen, hot, red and angry-looking, or if you develop a fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit, call your doctor. This could be a sign the wound is infected.

If your incision starts bleeding, lie down and apply firm, direct pressure to the wound for at least 30 minutes. If possible, have someone else apply the pressure. If the wound does not stop bleeding after 30 minutes, maintain pressure and call 911.

Activity Restrictions After Cardiac Catheterization

You should plan in advance for certain activity restrictions in the days following your catheterization. Adhering to the activity guidelines should shorten your heart stent recovery time. Your doctor will give you specific instructions, but in general you should:

  • Avoid lifting anything heavier than a gallon of milk for the first week.

  • Avoid climbing stairs more than 2 to 3 times a day, and move slowly when you’re going up and down. If you don’t have a bathroom on the first floor of your home, you might consider renting a bedside commode for a few days to avoid stair climbing.

  • Avoid most sports or strenuous activities, such as golf, tennis, running or yard work.

  • Avoid straining on the toilet. Take an over-the-counter stool softener if you feel constipated.

  • Do not drive for the first day or two, unless your doctor approves it.

  • Do not engage in sexual activity for the first week of recovery.

You should walk as often as possible on flat surfaces during your recovery. This will help you avoid developing a blood clot in your legs and help you build stamina.

Staying Healthy After Receiving a Heart Stent

Beyond following your discharge instructions, you can speed your recovery by adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle that includes:

  • Drinking plenty of water. Adequate hydration keeps your whole body happy and helps your medications work better.

  • Eating a healthy diet that’s rich in vegetables, fruits, lean meats and whole grains.

  • Increasing your activity levels to achieve a goal of purposeful exercise at least three times a week. When your doctor releases you to normal activity, start by walking for half an hour every day.

  • Quitting smoking.

  • Taking your medications exactly as prescribed. If you have any questions about why you take certain medications, talk to your doctor.

Receiving a heart stent can be a life-saving treatment. You can recover well and get back to normal life quickly if you know what to expect afterwards and plan ahead to make your recovery a success.

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  1. Angioplasty and Stent Placement. U.S. National Institutes of Health, MedlinePlus.
  2. Stents. U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
  3. Cardiac Catheterization. Kids Health, Nemours.
  4. Angioplasty and Stent – Heart – Discharge. U.S. National Institutes of Health, MedlinePlus.
  5. Cardiac Catheterization – Discharge. U.S. National Institutes of Health, MedlinePlus.
  6. After Your Cardiac Catheterization. Cleveland Clinic.
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Apr 10
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