Angioplasty is a procedure performed in response to Coronary Artery Disease (CAD).
CAD develops when coronary arteries, which carry blood to the heart, become clogged with plaque. Since 1977, the procedure, formally known as Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty (PTCA), has been used as an alternative to open heart surgery in over 50% of patients who require intervention.
Angioplasty is regarded as a viable alternative to open heart surgery, which is costly and complicated. It has a 95% success rate and can be repeated if the artery closes up again. The decision to perform an angioplasty is made after the doctor performs a diagnostic catheterization and assesses the damage to the arteries.
In preparation for angioplasty, the patient is placed under local anesthesia. A catheter is inserted into a coronary artery in the groin or, less frequently, the arm. Guided by x-ray images on a television screen, the surgeon passes a thinner, balloon-tipped catheter through the first one. At the point of blockage, the balloon is inflated slightly to resume normal blood flow. More recently, a stent has been used in place of a balloon. A stent is a mesh wire tube that is inserted via catheter. The advantage of a stent is that it reduces the risk of the artery becoming blocked again.
During the procedure, the patient may feel mild chest pain. The more uncomfortable period follows directly after the procedure. The patient must lie still for several hours afterward to allow the puncture site to heal. One or two days later, most patients leave the hospital.
Last updated: 26-May-04