Angioplasty 101

Plaque. It’s a fatty substance that can build up in your arteries when there is too much cholesterol in your blood. This condition, known as atherosclerosis, can affect any of your arteries and can lead to coronary artery disease, the most common form of heart disease.

When plaque builds up, it can block your blood flow and cause blood clots, which in turn can result in stroke, angina (chest pain), and heart attack.

Angioplasty is a procedure that can open up your affected arteries and restore normal blood flow. Your doctor will use a coronary angiogram to determine if you are a good candidate for angioplasty. During the angiogram, your doctor will use a long tube called a catheter to inject a liquid dye into your arteries. This dye will help make your arteries more visible on X-ray, which will allow your doctor to review any blockages you have.

Happy old man having a casual talk with a doctorIn some cases, angioplasty will be a scheduled procedure. However, it may be done as an emergency operation if you are having a heart attack. If your doctor recommends angioplasty, here is what you can expect:

· You will likely need to fast for several hours before the procedure.

· You will receive a local anesthesia, so you will be awake throughout the operation. You will also be given medications to help you relax, as well as anticoagulants to help prevent blood clots.

· You will have small electrodes placed on your chest to monitor your heart rate.

· Your surgeon will make a small incision, most likely in your groin area.

· The surgeon will then insert a guide wire and a catheter through the incision, into your artery, and up to the blockage.

· At the end of the catheter is a balloon. Once the catheter reaches your blockage, the balloon will be inflated, so it stretches and widens the artery.

· Your surgeon may also insert a stent, which looks like a coil of wire mesh. This tiny device will keep your artery from becoming narrow again.

· After a few minutes, the catheter will be removed.

· Your surgeon will repeat this procedure for each blockage you have.

Depending on the number of arteries that are affected, angioplasty can take from 30 minutes to a few hours. Afterward, you will likely need to stay in the hospital overnight. Most patients report good results after angioplasty. Their arteries are widened and their chest pain subsides.

Keep in mind, however, that all patients need to monitor their heart health, even after treatment. If you have high cholesterol, talk to your doctor about medications and lifestyle changes that can help.

To learn more about angioplasty and other cardiovascular treatments, contact the Heart Centerat Denton Regional Medical Center. We can help you protect your heart and manage any conditions you have.


Denton Regional Medical Center

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

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