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ANGIOPLASTY

Angioplasty is a procedure to open narrowed or blocked blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. These blood vessels are called the coronary arteries.

A coronary artery stent is a small, metal mesh tube that expands inside a coronary artery. A stent is often placed after angioplasty. It helps prevent the artery from closing up again. A drug eluting stent has medicine in it that helps prevent closing of the artery.

Angioplasty also goes by the names of: Balloon angioplasty, Coronary angioplasty, Coronary artery angioplasty, Coronary artery balloon angioplasty, Cardiac angioplasty, PTCA, Percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty, PCI, Percutaneous coronary intervention, and Heart artery dilatation.

Need for an angioplasty

Arteries can become narrowed or blocked by deposits called plaque. Plaque is made up of fat and cholesterol that builds up on the inside of the artery walls. This condition is called atherosclerosis.

Not every blockage can be treated with angioplasty. Some need coronary bypass (heart surgery).

Angioplasty may be used to treat:

  • Persistent chest pain (angina) that medicines do not control
  • Blockage of one or more coronary arteries that puts you at risk for a heart attack
  • Blockage in a coronary artery during or after a heart attack

Procedure description

Balloon angioplasty

Illustration: Angioplasty with stent placement

The doctor makes a small cut (incision) on your body, usually near the groin and inserts a catheter (flexible tube) through the incision into an artery. Sometimes the catheter will be placed in your arm or wrist. You will be awake during the procedure.

The doctor uses live x-ray pictures to carefully guide the catheter up into your heart and arteries. Dye will be injected into your body to highlight blood flow through the arteries. This helps the doctors see any blockages in the blood vessels that lead to your heart.

A guide wire is moved into and across the blockage. A balloon catheter is pushed over the guide wire and into the blockage. The balloon on the end is blown up (inflated). This opens the blocked vessel and restores proper blood flow to the heart.

A stent (wire mesh tube) may then be placed in this blocked area. The stent is inserted along with the balloon catheter. It expands when the balloon is inflated. The stent is then left there to help keep the artery open.

Aftercare

For most people, angioplasty greatly improves blood flow through the coronary arteries and the heart. It may remove the need for coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG).

Angioplasty does not cure the cause of the blockage in your arteries. Your arteries may become narrow again. Follow your heart-healthy diet, exercise, stop smoking (if you smoke), and reduce stress to help lower your chances of having a blocked artery again. Your health care provider may prescribe medicine to help lower your cholesterol.

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