Angioplasty is a procedure involving minimal invasion to widen narrowed or obstructed arteries or veins that restricts blood supply to different body organs. The most common form of this is the coronary angioplasty which the doctor performs to reduce the chances of a heart attack due to blockage formed in the arteries leading to the heart. In order to perform an angioplasty, the patient has to under angiography so that the doctor can understand how many and where exactly the blockages are present.
How is an Angioplasty Performed?
Angioplasty is performed in the following steps:
- Usually, angioplasty is performed while the patient is under local anaesthesia.
- An incision is made in the patient’s arm or groin to insert a flexible tube called catheter.
- In the first step of angioplasty, a thin wire called the guidewire is passed across the narrow segment of the blocked artery. This serves as the support.
- Then the catheter with a small uninflated balloon is inserted inside on the end of the artery.
- Using iodine dye and X-ray camera the catheter with the balloon is threaded to the blockage of the artery over the guidewire.
- Once the position is set, the inflatable balloon is inflated to remove the blockage and widen the artery. This happens because the plaque or fatty deposits gets pushed against the wall of the artery due to the inflation.
- The balloon may be inflated several times to flatten the plaque against the wall of the artery. This way, the plaque that extends into the wall of the artery may crack or tear. This is necessary and normal.
- Once this is done, the balloon is deflated. X-ray pictures are taken to make sure that the blockage is gone. Then the balloon is removed along with the catheter.
- In some cases, a stainless steel mesh called stent may also be attached to the catheter. This stent holds the blood vessel open. This can remain in the artery after the balloon is deflated and removed.
- The procedure of angioplasty ends with the closure of the incision site where the catheter was inserted.
What are the Types of Angioplasty?
- Coronary angioplasty- This is primarily the most common type of angioplasty to treat the narrow coronary arteries of the heart.
- Peripheral angioplasty- This is done to treat narrowed arteries of abdomen, leg and renal arteries caused by peripheral artery diseases. This is done by insertion of a balloon to clear out a blood vessel outside the coronary arteries.
- Carotid angioplasty- This is done to remove blockages in arteries present in the patient’s neck that lead to the brain. It reduces the risk of stroke due to such blockages.
- Venous angioplasty- This is done by the removal of blockages from the veins present in the pathway from lower neck to the armpit.
What are the Benefits of Angioplasty?
Angioplasty helps in the correction of blocked arteries which benefits the patient in many ways:
- Angioplasty reduces the risk of muscle damage in the heart by restoring proper blood flow.
- It reduces the risk of stroke.
- Angioplasty restores the proper functioning of the kidneys.
- It reduces the patient’s susceptibility to peripheral artery diseases by improving the blood flow to legs and abdomen.
- Angioplasty brings immediate relief from chest pain, shortness of breath and fatigue.
Venous angioplasty reduces the patient’s risk to develop Thoracic Outlet Syndrome; a condition in which the nerves, arteries and veins present in the lower neck joining the armpit gets compressed. This condition is known to be quite painful.
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