What Is Coronary Angioplasty?

Coronary angioplasty is a common medical procedure wherein a narrowed or obstructed blood vessel as a result of atherosclerosis is widened by mechanical means. It is considered as a non-surgical procedure to open up the blocked heart arteries. It is usually performed in a cardiac catheterization laboratory with a cardiologist with a team of cardiovascular nurses and technicians.

Procedure

During angioplasty, doctors first perform a cardiac catheterization. A patient is given some medication in order to relax and then a local anesthesia is used to numb a particular site where the sheath will be inserted. The usual site of entry can be from the groin and, at times, in the arm.

Going Inside The Artery

After the site has become numb, a sheath composed of a small plastic tube is inserted into an artery. Then a catheter, which is a long, narrow and hollow tube is passed through the sheath and guided up the blood vessels towards the arteries that surrounds the heart.

Through the catheter, doctors then inject a small amount of contrasting material through the catheter and are photographed as it moves through the heart chambers, valves and other major vessels. Through this, the doctors may be able to see which coronary arteries have narrowed or are blocked.

Opening Up The Narrowed Artery

Once a narrowed or obstructed artery is found, doctors then engage the catheter into the said site. Doctors then try to widen the narrowed artery using any one of the various methods.

A more common method is balloon angioplasty. In this procedure, a small balloon tipped catheter is guided into the narrowed artery. The narrowing is usually caused by fatty deposits that have gradually increased in the arteries over time.

What this procedure does is try to widen the artery by inserting the balloon and then inflating it in the narrowed area. The inflated balloon then presses the fatty deposits into the artery walls, opening up the artery and increasing the blood flow to the heart.

Who Needs It?

A coronary angioplasty is the next option in line to consider for people with blocked or narrowing arteries even after instituting lifestyle changes and taking medication but without much success. A coronary angioplasty is the preferred option for people who have a less severe narrowing or blocking of arteries.

The advantage of a coronary angioplasty is that it offers fewer risks than other known procedures. Considering that it is not considered a surgical procedure, patients only have to deal with a small cut and would only go through a shorter recovery period.