The heart is one of the most vital organs in our body as it pumps oxygen-rich blood to all the body parts through arteries and thus maintains life. As you grow old, a fatty substance called plaque builds up inside your arteries leading to a condition called atherosclerosis. Over time, these plaques become hard and may break open resulting in the narrowing of the arteries and formation of blood clots. This reduces the blood flow to the heart and ultimately leads to many heart problems including heart attacks.
What is coronary angioplasty?
Coronary means heart. Coronary angioplasty, commonly called as angioplasty, is the surgical procedure that restores the blood flow to the heart. This treatment option is recommended only when medications or lifestyle changes do not help in managing the condition or when you have a sudden heart attack or worsening chest pain. The decision for angioplasty depends on the severity of your heart disease and overall medical condition.
How is it performed?
Before performing coronary angioplasty, the doctor should know the exact location and extent of blockage in your coronary arteries. For this, a test called coronary angiography is performed that uses a dye and special X-rays to show the inside of your arteries.
The surgery may take 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the severity and number of blockages. During angiography, the doctor makes a small incision in the skin over a blood vessel in the arm, wrist or groin region and inserts a flexible guide wire into the artery. Then a tapered tube known as a sheath is placed over the guide wire.
A thin, long, and flexible tube called a guiding catheter is sent through the guide wire into the artery to reach the blockage of your heart. You may feel pressure in the area while inserting the catheter. Inform the doctor if you feel a sharp pain. A dye is injected through the catheter; this gives a detailed picture of the coronary artery and any blockages on an X-ray image, called angiogram.
A balloon catheter, which is a thin catheter with a balloon at its tip, is threaded over the wire and positioned in the blockage through the guiding catheter. Then the balloon is inflated to push the plaque against the artery wall, relieving the blockage and improving the blood flow through the artery. In some cases, the balloon is inflated and deflated more than once to widen the artery.
The doctor may also place a stent (a small mesh tube) to prevent the artery from closing up again. This stent will be wrapped around the balloon catheter. While inflating the balloon, the stent expands against the arterial wall, and while deflating, the stent remains in place, in the artery.
You will be taken to the recovery room after the surgery, and your heart rate, pulse, and blood pressure will be monitored, and the insertion site will be checked for bleeding.
Coronary angioplasty can help to improve symptoms such as chest pain. It also increases the rate of survival and decreases the chance of having another heart attack. As the procedure is minimally invasive, there are lesser chances of developing serious complications. A coronary angioplasty is a very effective and efficient treatment option for patients with heart issues.