Angioplasty is a medical procedure used to open an artery that is narrow or blocked. Over time, plaque can build up in the arteries, causing a condition known as atherosclerosis. Complications of atherosclerosis can include chest pain, heart attack and other heart problems. An angioplasty is done to open an artery blocked by plaque and restore blood flow to the heart.
How Angioplasty Works
Angioplasty is performed with a catheter, which is a thin tube that is inserted into the artery. This means that angioplasty can be performed without open surgery, which reduces the risk for complications. Typically, the catheter is directed to the location of the blockage, and then a balloon on the catheter is inflated. This opens the artery and restores blood flow.
Most angioplasties also include the insertion of a stent, a small mesh tube that is left permanently in the artery in order to keep it open. During the angioplasty, the stent is usually placed around the balloon. That way, it gets opened up and attached to the artery wall during the angioplasty. This helps keep the artery open. Some stents are coated with a medication that helps prevent scarring from the angioplasty, which can further help keep the artery open over time.
Angioplasty Complications and Concerns
Angioplasty is generally regarded as a safe procedure, and serious complications rarely occur. Still, there are some risks involved, such as internal bleeding, blood vessel damage and even heart attack or stroke. Some people have a greater risk for these complications than others, so it’s best to discuss any concerns with a doctor. There is also typically a recovery period after angioplasty, though it is frequently less extensive than it would be for an open heart surgery.
SOURCES: U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.