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Coronary Angioplasty

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An overview of coronary angioplasty

Coronary angioplasty, is a medical and surgical procedure used for opening narrowed blood vessels in the heart. Some of the alternative names of the surgery are percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) and percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA). The medical procedure is performed for restoring blood flow in the heart muscles. The surgical procedure is often used in combination with placement of small wire mesh tube known as stent on permanent basis for reducing the chance of narrowing of artery again.


When coronary angioplasty is required ?

It is performed when a person suffers from coronary artery or heart disease caused by atherosclerosis. The heart, one of the important organs of the body, requires constant blood supply. It receives the blood with the help of two blood vessels, known as right and left coronary arteries. Due to deposition of fatty plaques in the blood vessels of the heart, the arteries become hardened and narrowed. And it results in restricting the blood flow to the heart, thereby leading towards a condition known as angina.

Chest pain is regarded as one of the most common symptoms of angina. In some cases, angina is treated successfully with medication. However, in some cases coronary angioplasty is performed for restoring the blood supply. A worth disclosing fact is the surgery cannot be performed in those patients whose arteries are abnormal or if there is presence of various narrow sections in them.


Procedure of Performing Coronary Angioplasty

For performing coronary angioplasty, the following steps are undertaken:

  1. A surgical cut is made in the groin area with the help of needle.

  2. Then, a catheter usually referred as a flexible tube is inserted into the artery. The surgeons will make use of X-ray monitors to see X-ray pictures of the tube inserted in artery. These kinds of X- rays are known as fluoroscopy.

  3. A contrast dye is injected for locating the site of blocked arteries. The dye is used for helping catheter to reach at correct position.

  4. The next step involves passing of stent to the blocked artery with the help of catheter.

  5. At the same time, another catheter having small balloon at its end is pushed into the blockage.

  6. The small balloon is inflated for few seconds with the sole purpose of opening the blood vessel. The inflated balloon helps in pushing against the artery walls. This results in widening the artery, squashing the fatty deposits, present on the artery wall and restoring apt blood flow.

The medical procedure is carried out safely in majority of people as it does not involve major incisions in the body. The procedure usually takes half an hour time to perform. However, in some cases the procedure runs for several hours, depending upon how many blockages are there and the types of blockage. Doctors prefer keeping patients under observation for one day in the hospital. In very rare case, longer stay is recommended. The coronary angioplasty procedure causes very less pain as doctors numb the area where catheter is inserted.


Precautions Required after Angioplasty

It is necessary to take medications regularly and timely as per the doctor's recommendation. There are certain precautions which are necessary to following after undergoing coronary angioplasty. For almost a week, avoid doing strenuous activities like lifting any heavy object, etc. Avoid driving car after the surgery. Prefer drinking a lot of fluids so that the body does not face problem of contrast dye.


Risks Associated with Angioplasty

Although, the success rate of the invasive surgery is quite high, there are certain risks associated with it. Some of the most common risks are blood clotting within stents, bleeding at the place where catheter is inserted, re-narrowing of the artery, etc. Some of the rare risks associated with coronary angioplasty are stroke, coronary artery damage, kidney problems, heart attack, etc.

Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: September 07, 2012

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