What is Angioplasty used for?

By  , Expert Content
Mar 05, 2012

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The coronary (heart’s) arteries can become clogged due to plaque build-up inside them. Plaque contains fat, cholesterol, calcium and other elements present in the blood. It builds-up slowly in the heart arteries over many years. The plaque  hardens and narrows the coronary arteries over time. Depending on the severity of narrowing, you may or may not have symptoms of angina (chest pain or discomfort). If a blood clot forms on the surface of the plaque in the artery, the blockage can get worse and completely block blood flow thereby, leading to a heart attack. Angioplasty is a procedure done to restore blood flow to the heart.

Elective angioplasty: Coronary angioplasty may be done to treat symptoms of angina (chest pain) due narrow or blocked coronary arteries. In this condition, angioplasty is usually done as an 'elective' procedure inferring that it is done on a chosen date and time.

Emergency angioplasty: Coronary angioplasty can be done in emergency situations such as after a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to the heart muscles becomes severely compromised because of blockage of the coronary arteries. When angioplasty is done immediately after a heart attack, it can limit the amount of damage caused to heart muscles. The amount of damage caused depends on the size of the region supplied by the blocked artery and other factors such as the time between injury and treatment. A major factor, which influences the amount of damage to heart muscle during a heart attack, is time between injury and treatment.  

Apart from angioplasty, other treatments for coronary heart disease (CHD) include medicines and coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG). CABG is a surgical procedure done to restore blood flow to the heart muscles. In this procedure, a healthy artery or vein from the body is connected or grafted to the blocked coronary artery. The grafted artery or vein improves blood flow to the heart by bypassing the blocked portion of the coronary artery.

Advantages of angioplasty as compared with CABG include:

  • Open-heart surgery is not needed.
  • General anaesthesia is not needed (medicine to make the patient sleep during the procedure is not needed).
  • Shorter recovery time and shorter stay in hospital.

Angioplasty, however, cannot be done in everyone with CHD. CABG may be a better option in some patients such as people with severe CHD, narrowing of the left main coronary artery or poor function in the lower left heart chamber.



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