Many people who are suddenly confronted with the fact that the have heart disease ask the question “what is Angioplasty” Angioplasty is one of the most successful treatment procedures for removing plaque from blocked or severely narrowed coronary arteries. The angioplasty procedure is considered minimally-invasive and depending on the damage to the heart and the number of stents needed is usually completed within a few hours. It is performed by an experience cardiologist supported by and highly experience cardiac team.
Who Needs Angioplasty?
Angioplasty is a procedure recommended to those who have heart disease typically atherosclerosis. Arteriosclerosis is caused by high levels of blood cholesterol (specifically low-density lipoproteins – or “bad” cholesterol” as its known) and fat in the bloodstream which sometimes builds-up forming plaque and causing the arteries to harden. This in turn causes the arteries to become rigid and less flexible once this occurs atherosclerosis or heart disease is diagnosed. Atherosclerosis can reduce the blood flow through the coronary arteries (the vessels that supply oxygenated blood directly to the heart) causing angina (chest pains when doing something active like walking up stairs). In some people if left unchecked atherosclerosis can progresses to a full blow heart attack (myocardial infarction).
Most angioplasties are carried out as scheduled procedures. To ensure the best possible outcomes tests including X-ray, urinalysis, blood tests and electrocardiogram are carried out to ensure the procedure is appropriate and safe. There are some patients however who need urgent or emergency Angioplasty following a heart attack. Angioplasty in these cases can be a real life saver.
Not all patients with coronary artery disease can have angioplasty – there are many factors which can render the procedure unsuitable, such as the blockage/narrowing occurring in naturally narrow sections of an artery or too many blocked/narrowed vessels branching off artery. In cases like this, more invasive alternative techniques such as coronary artery bypass will be suggested.
So, What Does Angioplasty Entail
The angioplasty procedure was developed to open up blocked arteries to restore normal blood flow to the effected part of the heart. This is a achieved by inserting a flexible tube (called the catheter) through the narrowed/blocked artery. A balloon is then fixed to the end of the catheter, which is then inflated, pushing the plaque outwards against the arterial wall. This causes a temporary widening of the narrowed artery. The balloon is then removed and to keep the site open, a coronary stent (a flexible metal mesh structure) is inserted which remains there permanently to hold the artery open and restore blood flow.
The amount of time the procedure takes Depends on the number of effected arteries.. Patients are usually given a sedative to help them relax, IV fluids and medications through an intravenous injection, and local anesthetic at the site of the catheter insertion (usually the wrist or the groin area). X-rays are taken throughout the procedure to allow the cardiologist to view and guide the movement of the catheter and accurate placement of the stent.
Preparation and Post-Procedure Care
In preparation for the the procedure patients will be given aspirin (anti-platelet) and anti-coagulant medications a few days before and will be instructed not to eat or drink for at least four hours (or more) before the procedure. While the procedure is being carried out, you will be awake.
After the angioplasty procedure is finished, you will be advised to remain flat for at least six hours. You will also be given platelet-blocking medications to prevent blood clotting near or around the implanted stent. You will be advised to take it easy for the a few days following the stent, and be encouraged to gradually ease back to your regular activities.
Heart disease and the possibility of a future angioplasty can be avoided by taking better care of yourself, eating the right foods avoiding a sedentary lifestyle and taking regular exercise.