What is angioplasty?

Angioplasty is a procedure to restore blood flow through the artery.

If you have coronary artery disease, the arteries in your heart are narrowed or blocked by a sticky material called plaque.

In this case, it is advisable to have a primary angioplasty at the soonest possible time.

This is important, if you want to save your heart muscle, says cardiologist Dr Suresh Venkita.

The heart muscle, called the cardiac muscle has only one job, but a very important one, and that is to pump blood through the miles of blood vessels in your body.

When there is no proper blood supply into the heart muscle, it dies.

An angioplasty is a 40-minute procedure that opens up the blood vessels without the use of surgery.

The doctor threads a thin tube through a blood vessel in the arm or groin, guiding it through the aorta (the main artery of the body) into the blocked artery in the heart.

This long thin tube is called a catheter.

There are three steps here as explained by Dr Venkita.

The first catheter has a camera attached to it to take pictures for the angiogram.

The second one has a long deflated balloon at the end of it. When the tube is in place, the doctor inflates the balloon to push the plaque (small accumulation of fat causing blockage) outward against the wall of the artery. This widens the artery and restores blood flow.

Usually, around the balloon is a small metal tube, which can expand, called a stent. Or as Dr Venkita says, the stent can be inserted on a separate catheter. The stent is as thin as a strand of hair. It’s like a scaffold to keep the artery’s round wall perfectly open for many years.

“Within a few hours, the body’s own cells start coating around the stent until it becomes part of the arterial wall – acting as its support structure,” he says.

Medicine is available to avoid blood clotting around the stent. Or some stents these days have medicine built into them.

Dr Venkita says there are three types of angioplasty:

Primary – when one has the procedure as soon as possible to resolve the problem upon knowing their heart’s status. This is the best option for better result.

Delay – when one undergoes the procedure at a delayed date intentionally (their own decision). The results are bad.  

Rescue – when one eventually undergoes the procedure after visiting numerous other hospitals/doctors already and having received multiple treatments elsewhere. Usually at this stage, s/he is very unstable and in a dangerous condition. His/her risks are very high.  

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Gloria Bauai