Angioplasty, also known as percutaneous coronary intervention or percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty, is a minimally invasive cardiological procedure, performed to treat narrowed or clogged coronary arteries to restore the normal flow of blood to the heart and relieve symptoms like angina (chest pain) and breathlessness. In some cases the procedure is accompanied by the placement of a stent to prevent the artery from narrowing again. Around 5 lakh people undergo angioplasty in India annually.
Heart attack is a problem that needs immediate medical intervention. It is pertinent to undergo angioplasty in the first few hours following the problem as timing plays a very crucial role. The more you wait, more are the risks of complications and more is the damage to the heart.
The procedure is carried out under the influence of local/general anaesthesia such that the patient does not feel any pain or discomfort. It involves the use of a catheter, a small, flexible tube, with a balloon attached on one of its end. The catheter is introduced inside the patient’s body through the groin or via a small incision on the leg, arm or side of the chest. SpecialX-ray technique is used which helps the doctors to direct the catheter towards the affected artery without directly accessing it. A special dye is used for this purpose.
Once the catheter is in the right position, the balloon is inflated to push open the narrowed walls of the artery so as to widen it. Once the blockage has been treated effectively, the balloon is deflated and removed along with the catheter.
If the doctors feel the need of placing a stent, the catheter is equipped with the same. The stent is placed after inflating the balloon, which helps to pave way for its placement. The stent remains in its position even after the balloon is deflated and removed.
The procedure can be performed for one section of the artery at a time or several sections simultaneously. As far as the former is concerned, it may take about 30 to 45 minutes for completion, however, in case of latter it can take up to several hours.
Coronary angioplasty is a gold standard treatment option for treating narrowed arteries. The procedure not only helps to restore the normal flow of blood but also alleviates the damage to your heart muscles. In certain cases, it might even negate the need of an open heart surgery which involves comparatively longer convalescence period. Here are a few proven benefits of angioplasty:
- It gives immediate relief from pain and other symptoms
- It reduces the risks of stroke
- It improves the flow of blood to various organs of the body
- It involves minimal scarring and reduced loss of blood
Just like any other medical procedure, angioplasty too is accompanied by certain risks which include:
- Bleeding and clotting at the site of incision
- Tissue scarring
- Blood clot formation
- Vascular damage
- Renal damage
- Slightly increased risks of stroke
Although these risks cannot be ignored, it is pertinent to mote that the benefits of angioplasty outnumber these. Also proper assessment before the procedure can help the doctors to take all the necessary measure to alleviate this complications.