Angioplasty / Stenting Procedures
Angioplasty is a procedure that uses a tiny balloon at the tip of a catheter to open narrowed or blocked blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. These blood vessels are called the coronary arteries and, over time, they can become blocked by a fatty substance called plaque. This procedure is performed after the doctor has seen the angiogram (picture) that shows where the arteries are blocked. Angioplasty, with or without stenting, opens arteries to restore blood flow.
A coronary artery stent is a small metal mesh tube that expands inside a coronary artery. A stent is often placed during or immediately after angioplasty. It helps prevent the artery from closing up again. A drug-eluting stent has medicine embedeed in it that helps prevent the artery from closing.
These procedures are performed in a Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory (Cath Lab).
What happens during the procedure?
The physician inserts a thin, flexible tube (the catheter) through a sheath in your arm or leg. This maneuvers toward your heart. A non-toxic dye is injected to make it possible for the physician to visualize the coronary arteries. In addition, blood pressure recordings may be made in the various chambers of your heart, and valve function can be examined. Pictures will be taken with specialized cameras.
When the blockage is located, a balloon catheter is placed in the narrowed artery and slowly inflated to press the fatty deposits against the artery walls. This allows the blood to flow more freely to the heart muscle.
In many cases, superior results can be obtained if the cardiologist inserts a stent into the area of the blockage and expands it with the balloon. A stent is an expandable wire mesh tube, sized to fit your artery. Once in place, a stent can provide a better channel for blood flow through the artery, with a better long-term result.
What happens after the procedure?
You will be asked to drink plenty of fluids to help flush the dye contrast out of your system. Later, when the sheath is removed, a sandbag or pressure bandage will be placed on the insertion site to prevent bleeding. You will remain lying down for several hours.
Your physician will talk to you about the amount of improvement in the artery opening and the possibility of your symptoms returning, medications, restrictions, and changes in daily habits to reduce the risk of more arteries narrowing. You will be informed when to return for follow-up visits.