Coronary angioplasty: It is also known as a percutaneous coronary intervention [Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty (PTCA)]. It is a procedure (minimally invasive procedure) performed by interventional cardiologists to treat or open narrowed coronary arteries.
We will understand this procedure in detail in the following paragraphs.
This is an interventional procedure. A very small skin incision is made in the wrist or groin area. From there the cardiologist inserts a long, thin tube called a catheter in the artery and then threads the tube to the affected artery (coronary artery). X-ray imaging is used to guide the tube properly to its destination.
To ensure proper viewing of the affected artery, the cardiologist injects a small amount of dye through the catheter. With this technique, the narrowed artery or blockages in the artery can be easily seen in the X-ray images. This procedure is known as an angiogram. It helps in the identification of the area where the blockage is.
Next, the cardiologist inserts a catheter with a balloon on its tip. It is then guided to the affected artery of the heart. Once the catheter reaches the blocked or narrowed artery of the heart, the cardiologist inflates the balloon attached to the catheter. The narrowed coronary artery then opens and the blood flow improves. The doctor then deflates the balloon and removes it.
Once the procedure completes, the catheter is removed and the tiny incision is sealed and the dressing is done. The patient is instructed to lie in bed for a few hours after the procedure.
Angioplasty is for whom?
Plaque is a waxy or sticky material as you are well aware of it. It builds up in the arteries and blocks or narrows them down. The condition is known as coronary artery disease (atherosclerosis) as it happens in the coronary arteries. Angioplasty is a procedure to restore blood flow through the coronary artery.
Cardiologists recommend angioplasty in the following cases:
If a person is diagnosed with coronary artery disease wherein the artery is blocking blood flow to the heart – the symptoms may include chest pain, shortness of breath, and weakness.
Heart blockages in some people put them at increased risk of a heart attack. Coronary angioplasty is recommended to them.
When a person experiences a heart attack, to reduce the damage caused to the heart muscle, angioplasty is recommended.
It is recommended to quickly open a blocked artery during a heart attack
Angioplasty is a recommended procedure for treating chest pain (angina) which is worsening.
It is recommended to those who have already tried lifestyle changes and medications, but none of these measures improved their condition.
Angioplasty is often combined with the placement of a stent.
A stent is a wire mesh tube; it props the artery open. A stent is basically used as a scaffolding to keep the narrowed artery open after removing the plaque. A stent thus decreases the chance of an artery narrowing again.
Stents are often placed permanently inside arteries to keep them open. Some open on their own, others need a balloon to open.
How is a stent placed?
The stent is mounted on the balloon as discussed above and then threaded to the blocked and narrowed area of the artery. The balloon is then inflated. It causes the collapsed stent to open and get fixed against the artery walls.
The stent locks itself in this position and helps in keeping the artery open. Both the catheter and the balloon are removed after placing the stent.
Many stents are drug-eluting stents. They are coated with medicines to help keep the artery open. They are FDA-approved. The medicine releases slowly into the bloodstream to help keep the blood vessel (coronary artery) from narrowing again (restenosis).
Your cardiologist will instruct you to follow some healthy measures and make changes in your lifestyle – including your eating and sleeping habits. You must quit smoking, limit alcohol intake, eat a healthy diet as per the recommendations and get involved in some type of physical activity. Remember, angioplasty helps open a blocked artery, but won’t cure coronary artery disease unless you are determined to take care of your heart. Your cardiologist may prescribe some medicines as well. Follow what your cardiologist says and take care of your heart.