Defining Coronary Angioplasty
Coronary angioplasty is the name given to the healthcare procedure used to open clogged arteries of the heart. It involves inserting and expanding a tiny balloon at the site of the blockage to help clear the clogged artery. Coronary angioplasty can provide relief to patients suffering from some of the symptoms associated with blocked arteries, including shortness of breath and chest pain. This healthcare technique may also be performed during a heart attack to quickly open a clogged artery and thereby minimize damage to the heart.
Eligibility for Coronary Angioplasty
If clogged artery symptoms have not been minimized by the use of medication or healthy lifestyle changes, or if the patient suffers a cardiac arrest worsening the symptoms, then the healthcare practitioner may suggest a coronary angioplasty. If the blockage is small in size and can be accessed by angioplasty, and if the affected artery is not the one that supplies blood to the left side of the heart, then the patient is an ideal candidate for a coronary angioplasty.
Performing Coronary Angioplasty
Prior to a coronary angioplasty, the healthcare practitioner will make a detailed study of the patient’s medical history. A typical pre-procedure routine includes no intake of food and water for a few hours before the procedure. Chest x-ray, electrocardiogram (ECG), and blood tests are also conducted. A small incision is made, usually in the leg, and a thin guide wire is inserted and threaded through the artery right up to the blockage. A small thin catheter is passed over the wire until it reaches the site of the blockage. A small amount of dye is injected through the catheter so the healthcare practitioner can view the blockage on X-ray images called angiograms. A tiny balloon at the end of the catheter is inflated for several minutes at the site of the blockage stretching out the artery to widen it. This process of inflation is repeated several times. Once the artery has been widened, tiny coils of wire known as stents are placed in the artery. These spring-like stents act as support to prevent the artery from narrowing again after the coronary angioplasty much like scaffolding that holds a building up and prevents it from collapsing. The patient is likely to be discharged in a couple of days after the procedure and may be prescribed a course of anti-coagulants to prevent further blood clots. Any complaints of pain, swelling, or bleeding at the insertion site, fever, faintness, shortness of breath, or chest pain must be reported to staff at the healthcare facility immediately. In most patients, coronary angioplasty in conjunction with lifestyle modifications can lead to enhanced blood flow in the artery and a better quality of life.