Coronary Angioplasty (AN-jee-oh-plas-tee) is a procedure used to open narrow or blocked coronary (heart) arteries. The procedure restores blood flow to the heart muscle.
As you age, a waxy substance called plaque (plak) can build up inside your arteries. This condition is called atherosclerosis (ath-er-o-skler-O-sis). Atherosclerosis can affect any artery in the body. When atherosclerosis affects the coronary arteries, the condition is called Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) or Coronary Artery Disease (CAD).
Over time, plaque can harden or rupture (break open). Hardened plaque narrows the coronary arteries and reduces the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart. This can cause chest pain or discomfort called angina (an-JI-nuh or AN-juh-nuh).If the plaque ruptures, a blood clot can form on its surface. A large blood clot can mostly or completely block blood flow through a coronary artery. This is the most common cause of a heart attack. Over time, ruptured plaque also hardens and narrows the coronary arteries.
Angioplasty can restore blood flow to the heart. During the procedure, a thin, flexible catheter (tube) with a balloon at its tip is threaded through a blood vessel to the affected artery. Once in place, the balloon is inflated to compress the plaque against the artery wall. This restores blood flow through the artery.Doctors may use the procedure to improve symptoms of CHD, such as angina. The procedure also can reduce heart muscle damage caused by a heart attack.
Serious complications from angioplasty don’t occur often. However, they can happen no matter how careful your doctor is or how well he or she does the procedure. The most common complications are discomfort and bleeding at the catheter insertion site.
Research on angioplasty is ongoing to make it safer and more effective and to prevent treated arteries from narrowing again.Other Names for Coronary Angioplasty
Your doctor may recommend coronary angioplasty if you have narrow or blocked coronary arteries as a result of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD).Angioplasty is one treatment for CHD. Other treatments include medicines and Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG). CABG is a type of surgery in which a healthy artery or vein from the body is connected, or grafted, to a blocked coronary artery.
The grafted artery or vein bypasses (that is, goes around) the blocked portion of the coronary artery. This improves blood flow to the heart.Compared with CABG, some advantages of angioplasty are that it:
Angioplasty also is used as an emergency treatment for heart attack. As plaque builds up in the coronary arteries, it can rupture. This can cause a blood clot to form on the surface of the plaque and block blood flow to the heart muscle. Quickly opening the blockage restores blood flow and reduces heart muscle damage during a heart attack.
Coronary angioplasty is done in a hospital. A cardiologist will perform the procedure. A cardiologist is a doctor who specialises in diagnosing and treating heart diseases and conditions.If angioplasty isn’t done as an emergency treatment, you’ll meet with your cardiologist beforehand. He or she will go over your medical history (including the medicines you take), do a physical exam, and talk to you about the procedure.
Your doctor also may recommend tests, such as blood tests, an EKG (electrocardiogram), and a chest X-ray.Once the angioplasty is scheduled, your doctor will advise you:
Even though angioplasty takes only 1–2 hours, you’ll likely need to stay in the hospital overnight. Your doctor may advise you to not drive for a certain amount of time after the procedure. Thus, you’ll probably need to arrange a ride home.
Coronary angioplasty is done in a special part of the hospital called the cardiac catheterisation (KATH-eh-ter-ih-ZA-shun) laboratory. The Cath Lab has special video screens and X-ray machines. Your doctor will use this equipment to see enlarged pictures of the blockages in your coronary arteries.Preparation
After coronary angioplasty, youll be moved to a special care unit. Youll stay there for a few hours or overnight. You must lie still for a few hours to allow the blood vessel in your arm or groin (upper thigh) to seal completely.While you recover, someone on your healthcare team will check your blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen level, and temperature. The site where the catheters were inserted also will be checked for bleeding. That area may feel sore or tender for a while.
If you got a stent during angioplasty, the medicine reduces the risk that blood clots will form in the stent. Blood clots in the stent can block blood flow and cause a heart attack.
Your doctor will want to check your progress after you leave the hospital. During the follow up visit, your doctor will examine you, make changes to your medicines (if needed), do any necessary tests, and check your overall recovery.
Use this time to ask questions you may have about activities, medicines, or lifestyle changes, or to talk about any other issues that concern you
Talk with your doctor about your risk factors for CHD and the lifestyle changes you should make. Lifestyle changes might include changing your diet, quitting smoking, being physically active, losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing stress.
Your doctor may recommend cardiac rehabilitation (rehab). Cardiac rehab is a medically supervised program that helps improve the health and well-being of people who have heart problems.
Cardiac rehab includes exercise training, education on heart healthy living, and counseling to reduce stress and help you return to an active life. Your doctor can tell you where to find a cardiac rehab program near your home.
Coronary angioplasty is a common medical procedure. Serious complications do not occur often. However, they can happen no matter how careful your doctor is or how well he or she does the procedure.
Angioplasty complications can include:
Sometimes chest pain can occur during angioplasty because the balloon briefly blocks blood supply to the heart. As with any procedure involving the heart, complications can sometimes be fatal. However, this is rare with coronary angioplasty. Less than 2 percent of people die during the procedure.
Another problem that can occur after angioplasty is too much tissue growth within the treated portion of the artery. This can cause the artery to become narrow or blocked again, often within 6 months. This complication is called restenosis (RE-sten-o-sis).
When a stent (small mesh tube) is not used during angioplasty, 30 percent of people have restenosis. When a stent is used, 15 percent of people have restenosis.