Angioplasties restore normal blood flow to the patient’s heart muscle, and work by widening heart arteries when they are clogged with a buildup of cholesterol, cells or other substances (plaque). Once an occlusion is outlined by angiography, angioplasties work to both help the artery widen as well as decrease its chance of being clogged again. A balloon angioplasty opens narrowed arteries by using a long, thin tube called a catheter. Following this, a balloon is inflated at the site of the occlusion several times, opening enough to widen the artery. This compresses the plaque against the artery wall and opens the narrowed spot. Balloon angioplasty was until recently the only nonsurgical invasive treatment for this kind of condition, but with the invention of stents and other intravascular treatments, it is often now used in conjunction with a range of other techniques.
How Is It Performed?
- The doctor makes an incision over patient’s groin or arm and places a thin tube (called catheter) into an artery.
- This catheter is passed through the arterial system until it gets into patient’s left or right coronary artery.
- Watching on a special X-ray screen, the doctor is able to move the catheter into the artery. After that, a very small wire is passed through the catheter and beyond the narrowed area. Over this wire, a small sausage shaped balloon which is passed to the blockage.
- The balloon is inflated which helps pushing the plaque to the side and makes the artery widen and the blood flow more easily. This may be done several times.
- In many patients, it is suitable to use a tube (stent) which is fitted onto the balloon and opens up when the balloon is inflated. The stent will be in this position and helps keep the artery widen.
- The balloon and catheters will be taken out in the end. Stent remains.
What Happens After My Stent Placement?
- After uncomplicated and non-emergency stent placement, patients will remain hospitalized at least one night while their heart is monitored and their medications are adjusted. Sometimes a longer stay is required depending the patient’s case (2-3 days).
- Patients need to avoid intense physical activity after the procedure and need to ask their doctor how soon and at what level they can begin or return to exercise after coronary angioplasty (always depending on the complexity of the patient’s case)
- After a stent procedure, a dose of aspirin and another anticlotting medicine can be recommended by the doctor.
- Patients cannot take a bath or swim in a pool for at least one week after the procedure.
- After uncomplicated and non-emergency stent placement, patients are fit to fly in 2-3 days.