Coronary angioplasty, or simply angioplasty, is an interventional procedure to open up a blocked or narrow coronary artery. Your doctor may refer to it as balloon angioplasty, percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), or percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA). Coronary arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart.
When Should You Have Percutaneous Coronary Intervention?
Doctors perform angioplasty to restore normal blood flow through the coronary arteries. Your doctor may suggest angioplasty if you have coronary artery disease (CAD) or heart disease. CAD is a buildup of plaque that narrows the coronary arteries. The flow of blood through an artery can also be blocked by a blood clot.
Angioplasty is a common emergency treatment for heart attack. You may need angioplasty if doctors find a blockage.
Patients experiencing chest pain or a possible heart attack should have some form of angioplasty within 90 minutes of arriving at the hospital. Percutaneous coronary intervention includes stenting to keep an artery open afterward.
What to Expect During a Coronary Angioplasty
A cardiac surgeon or cardiologist will perform your angioplasty in a cardiac catheterization lab (cath lab). You will be sedated but awake during the procedure.
During angioplasty, a catheter is inserted into an artery, usually in the groin. With X-ray guidance, your doctor will move this thin tube up to the diseased coronary artery. He or she will inject a dye to help see the artery better. Once the catheter reaches the blockage, a laser dissolves the plaque or a small balloon is inflated and pushes the plaque aside. Both options widen the coronary artery.
Angioplasty can take from 30 minutes to several hours. You’ll have to lie still for several hours afterward. You will most likely spend the night in a cardiac care unit.
Risks of angioplasty include problems with the dye, blood vessel damage, irregular heartbeat, stroke, and heart attack. You may also need emergency heart surgery.
Recovering from Angioplasty
You’ll need to rest and take it slow for a few days after an angioplasty. Most people return to work within a week. It may be longer before your doctor says it’s safe for strenuous activities or exercise. Your doctor may recommend cardiac rehabilitation as part of your recovery.
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