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How long are you in an ICU after a stent?

Having a stent placed is a common procedure that opens up blocked arteries to improve blood flow. It often provides rapid relief of symptoms caused by coronary artery disease. However, being admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) after the procedure is also common to monitor for complications. Typically, the ICU stay is short, around 1-3 days on average.

Why Go to the ICU After a Stent?

There are a few key reasons a hospital may admit you to the ICU after a stent placement:

  • Procedure complications – Stent placements carry procedural risks like arterial damage, bleeding, orreactions to contrast dye used during the procedure. The ICU allows close monitoring in case any complications arise.
  • Recovery after sedation – Stent procedures utilize sedation or general anesthesia. The ICU allows recovery from anesthesia while being closely monitored.
  • Heart rhythm monitoring – Irregular heart beats like atrial fibrillation can occur after the procedure. ECG monitoring in the ICU helps detect arrhythmias.
  • Blood pressure monitoring – Blood pressure fluctuations are common after stenting. ICU monitoring helps ensure blood pressure remains stable.
  • Assessment of chest pain – Any recurrent chest pain can be closely evaluated in the ICU to rule out stent complications like thrombosis.
  • Heart function monitoring – ICUs provide monitoring of cardiac function through blood tests, echocardiography, and Swan-Ganz catheters if needed.

Overall, the main goal of post-procedure ICU care is careful monitoring for complications and stabilization after the stenting procedure.

Typical ICU Stay After Stenting

The majority of patients who have an uncomplicated stenting procedure stay in the ICU for a short period of 1-3 days. Some general trends in ICU length of stay include:

  • Same-day discharge – Patients who have their procedure early in the day and recover well may be discharged from the ICU the same day.
  • Overnight stay – Many patients stay one night in the ICU for monitoring before moving to a regular cardiac unit.
  • 2-3 day stay – Patients who have complications, don’t recover as quickly, or have other health issues may stay 2-3 days.
  • Extended stay – A small percentage of patients may require an extended stay of 4+ days if dealing with major complications.

A review of 1,157 patients who underwent stent placement found the average ICU length of stay was 38 hours, or about 1.5 days.

Factors Affecting Length of ICU Stay

Some key factors impact how long you will need to be monitored in the ICU after stent placement:

  • Type of stent procedure – More complex interventions like multiple stents placed will require longer ICU stays.
  • Health status – Patients with multiple medical problems or poor heart function need longer monitoring.
  • Development of complications – Arrhythmias, bleeding, or other procedural complications prolong ICU care.
  • Efficient recovery – Patients who are awake, stable, low risk, and have no pain may be discharged from the ICU more quickly.

Talk to your care team if you have concerns about how long you will need to be in the intensive care unit after your planned stent procedure.

What to Expect in the ICU After a Stent

If your doctor recommends an ICU stay after your stent placement, here is an overview of what to expect:

Monitoring and Tests

Frequent monitoring and testing is done routinely in the ICU, including:

  • Cardiac monitoring – Continuous ECG monitoring checks for abnormal heart rhythms.
  • Blood pressure checks – Blood pressure is checked routinely via arterial line or blood pressure cuff.
  • Blood tests – Bloodwork monitors blood cell counts, electrolytes, and kidney function.
  • Chest x-rays – X-rays are done to check the heart and lungs and look for complications.
  • Echocardiograms – Echos may be done to assess heart function after the procedure.


Common medications given in the ICU after a stent include:

  • Intravenous fluids – Fluids help maintain blood pressure and prevent dehydration.
  • Oxygen – Oxygen may be given through nasal prongs or a face mask to support breathing.
  • Antiplatelets – Medications like aspirin and clopidogrel prevent blood clotting.
  • Blood thinners – Anticoagulants like heparin prevent clot formation.
  • Antiarrhythmics – Medications to stabilize irregular heart rhythms may be used.
  • Pain medication – Medication through an IV line treats procedure-related chest pain.

Activity Restrictions

In the ICU, you will need to limit your physical activity while recovering from the procedure. Precautions usually include:

  • Bed rest – Strict bed rest is advised for the first day to allow the stent site to heal.
  • Head of bed elevation – Keeping the head slightly elevated reduces strain on the heart.
  • No lifting objects – Restrictions are placed on bending, lifting, or straining.
  • Limited walking – Walking is restricted until fully recovered from the sedation.

Your care team will let you know when you can become more physically active again.

Respiratory Treatments

You may receive breathing treatments or incentive spirometry to prevent respiratory complications like pneumonia after surgery. Coughing and deep breathing will be encouraged.

Comfort Measures

ICU care focuses on keeping patients as comfortable as possible:

  • Medications for pain and nausea are provided as needed.
  • Dressings or ice packs are applied to the catheterization site for comfort.
  • Position changes and supportive devices like pillows optimize comfort.
  • Sedation aids rest for patients on mechanical ventilation.

Notify your nurse if you have any discomfort or needs.

Recovering After Discharge from the ICU

Once you are medically stable and meet discharge criteria, you will be transferred out of the ICU to a regular hospital cardiac care unit or telemetry floor for continued recovery. Your activity will still be limited at first.

Common limitations after discharge from the ICU include:

  • No heavy lifting over 10 pounds for around 1 week.
  • No strenuous exercise for 1-2 weeks.
  • Driving restrictions for 1-2 weeks.
  • Gradual increase in walking over several days.
  • Avoiding submerging the catheterization site in water for 1 week.

Be sure to take all prescribed medications like aspirin, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and other cardiac drugs to support healing. Attend all follow up appointments to monitor your progress after the procedure. ications like aspirin, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and other cardiac drugs to support healing. Attend all follow up appointments to monitor your progress after the procedure.

When to Seek Emergency Care After Discharge

Call 911 or go to the ER if you experience any of the following after stent placement:

  • Chest pain that is severe or unrelieved by medication
  • Bleeding or swelling at the catheterization site
  • Fever over 101°F
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
  • Dizziness, fainting, or loss of consciousness
  • Any other symptom that concerns you


Being monitored in the ICU after a stent placement is a common practice to look for procedurial complications and help stabilize your condition after surgery. For uncomplicated stent procedures, the average ICU length of stay is around 1-3 days. Complex cases requiring multiple stents or patients with multiple medical issues may need longer ICU care. ICU care includes cardiac monitoring, frequent vital sign checks, bloodwork, activity restrictions, pain management, and breathing treatments.

Make sure to take all prescribed medications after discharge and attend follow-up appointments. Seek emergency care for any concerning symptoms after the procedure. With proper care and monitoring, most patients see significant improvement in their heart symptoms and functioning after stent placement.