Coronary Angioplasty Treatment

Angioplasty is derived from the words ‘angio’ which means blood vessel and ‘plasticos’ which means fit for molding. The term ‘angioplasty’ means widening of narrowed blood vessels by means of a balloon that stretches open the narrowed blood vessel.

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Coronary angioplasty also known as ‘percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA)’, is a medical procedure used for widening blood vessels that are blocked or narrowed due to deposition of cholesterol, cells or other substances (plaque). When the procedure was first used in 1977, a tiny balloon was used to open up and widen narrowed arteries. Now with advances in technology, modern devices like stents, laser are used for this purpose. When coronary angioplasty is used in combination with stenting, the procedure is usually referred to as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI).


When is a coronary angioplasty used?

Coronary arteries which carry blood to the heart can narrow down and harden, due to which blood flow to the heart reduces, giving rise to chest pain (angina). This can be treated by medications, but in some severe cases a coronary angioplasty is required to restore blood flow to the heart. Sometimes, complete blockage of coronary arteries may lead to a heart attack. In such cases coronary angioplasty may be used as an emergency treatment.


How is a coronary angioplasty performed?

In this procedure, the cardiologist makes a small incision on your groin or arm and inserts a small tube (catheter) through the incision into the blocked artery, guiding it with the help of an X-ray video. Once the catheter is moved into the affected artery, a thin wire with a deflated balloon at its end is passed into the catheter to the blocked area in the artery. The balloon is then inflated to widen the artery the increase blood flow. Nowadays modern devices like stents are used around the balloon to keep the artery open permanently. The stent expands when the balloon is inflated and remains permanently fixed after the balloon is deflated and removed. The wire and the catheter are removed about 4 to 5 hours after the procedure.


How long does the coronary angioplasty procedure take?

The procedure usually takes about 2 hours. The patient is usually kept wake during the procedure, but feels drowsy due to the effect of medication given to him.

What to expect after coronary angioplasty?

After the procedure, the catheter is removed from your leg or arm, and a nurse or doctor will apply direct pressure for 15 minutes or longer to the place where the catheter was inserted to ensure there’s no internal bleeding. If the catheter is inserted through your leg, you may have to lie on your back for several hours and your doctor will check on you from time to time. You may be required to stay in the hospital for a day or little longer as per your doctor’s advice. Your doctor may prescribe medications to prevent formation of blood clots or to lower cholesterol as required. After the procedure, you should avoid or vigorous physical activity or lifting heavy weights for a few days. You should also avoid smoking and eat a healthy diet thereafter.


How to choose between coronary angioplasty and bypass surgery?

You should consult your cardiologist in order to choose between going for a coronary angioplasty or a bypass surgery, as along with your symptoms, your cardiologist may also need to check your overall heart function and co-existing medical conditions.


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