What is Angioplasty? Types and Complications

Medpho Team July 29, 2023

Angioplasty is a process that improves blood flow in narrowed or blocked coronary arteries. The heart receives oxygen-rich blood through your coronary arteries. Plaque, a sticky material, builds up in the coronary arteries when you have coronary artery disease. Cholesterol, calcium and other chemicals in your blood combine to form plaque. It might narrow or completely block your arteries over time. As a result of this condition, some areas of your heart may not receive enough blood.

What is Angioplasty?

What is Angioplasty?

A procedure known as angioplasty is done to open blocked coronary arteries caused by coronary artery disease. Restoring blood flow to the cardiac muscle prevents open-heart surgery. Angioplasty can be performed in an emergency, such as a heart attack. If your healthcare professional strongly suspects you have heart problems, it can also be done as an elective procedure. Angioplasty is also termed percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI). A long, thin tube (catheter) is placed into a blood vessel and guided to the blocked coronary artery during angioplasty.

A small balloon is connected to the catheter's tip, and the balloon is inflated at the narrowed portion of the heart artery. Once the catheter is in place, it pushes the plaque or blood clot against the artery's sidewalls, allowing more room for the blood to flow with relief. 

During the procedure, the healthcare provider uses fluoroscopy. Fluoroscopy is a sort of X-ray that looks like a moving X-ray. As a contrast dye flows through the arteries, it aids the doctor in identifying blockages in the heart arteries. Coronary angiography is the medical term for this procedure.

Your healthcare professional may decide that you require a different procedure. This may include removing the plaque (atherectomy) from the artery's narrowing site. A catheter with a rotatable tip may be used during atherectomy. Once the catheter reaches the narrowed area in the artery, enabling the vessel to open, it breaks down the accumulated plaque

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Types of angioplasty

Two main types of angioplasty include:

  • Balloon angioplasty is a procedure that includes clearing plaque from an artery using the pressure of an inflated balloon. This is rarely done alone unless doctors are unable to place a stent in the proper position.
  • Stent insertion in the artery, which includes inserting a wire mesh tube, or stent, into the artery. Stents are used to prevent an artery from narrowing again after angioplasty.

Stents can be made of bare metal or coated with medicine. Drug-eluting stents (DES) are stents that carry medication and are less prone to clog up again.

DES stents are presently almost entirely used, with bare-metal stents being used rarely.

Who requires to have angioplasty?

Coronary angioplasty may be required for those who have coronary artery disease or had a heart attack. Angioplasty is also used to treat narrowed or blocked arteries in other parts of the body, including the neck, arms and legs, kidneys, and pelvic. Angioplasty allows more blood to flow through a narrowed or plaque-clogged artery. This indicates that after angioplasty, the organ that the artery serves will have a better blood supply. 

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What illnesses does angioplasty treat?

What illnesses does angioplasty treat?

Angioplasty is used by doctors to:

  • Reduce chest pain caused by coronary artery blockages. Angina is the clinical term for this type of pain. Angina comes in a variety of forms. Angioplasty is used to treat different types of angina.
  • Limit cardiac damage during or immediately after a heart attack. Angioplasty is an emergency treatment in this situation.
  • Blocked arteries in the neck can be treated using angioplasty. If your brain doesn't get enough oxygen, it can cause a stroke if left untreated.
  • Angioplasty is used to treat atherosclerosis in the major arteries of the arms, legs, and pelvis.

Coronary artery disease is not curable by angioplasty. Take any prescribed drugs, eat healthy foods, and exercise regularly to help prevent further plaque blockages.

What occurs during angioplasty?

Angioplasties are usually performed in a hospital in a special room known as a cardiac catheterization lab or cath lab. You'll be awake and lying down at the same time. An intravenous (IV) line will be used to inject drugs to help you relax and a tiny tube is pushed into the vein of the arm.

A blood vessel in groin, arm, or wrist area is used to perform angioplasty. Your doctor will do the following procedures:

  • To insert a thin tube into a blood vessel, make a small opening in that area.
  • Using x-rays as a guide, thread the tube into the channel and your heart.
  • Contrast dye is injected into your arteries. In x-rays, the dye illuminates your heart and blood vessels.
  • Replace the first tube with a tiny, deflated balloon on the end.
  • Inflate the balloon and guide it inside the blockage to push the plaque flat against the arterial wall. This helps in widening the artery and improves blood flow.
  • To keep the artery open, a tiny mesh tube is inserted sometimes. A stent is a name for the tube. A medication coating on some stents helps prevent blood clots from developing.

What occurs after angioplasty?

If you had angioplasty for chest pain, you'll spend a few hours in the recovery room. You may be told to stay at night in the hospital. Medications to prevent blood clots will probably be prescribed by your doctor. After a week, most people may resume their normal activities. In many cases, the doctors may recommend you to stay in the hospital for a few extra days if you had an emergency angioplasty for a heart attack.

Are there any complications from angioplasty?

Although major complications after angioplasty are uncommon, any invasive surgery carries the potential of complications. For example, an emergency coronary artery bypass graft may be required during or shortly after an angioplasty.  

Complications are very rare and may occur in about one out of every 100 procedures, however, this number can exceed or lower relying on your specific circumstances. You may experience bruising, soreness, or bleeding where the tubes were implanted. More significant issues do not occur frequently, but they are possible. Serious bleeding, blood clots, and re-narrowing of the artery are all possibilities.