Coronary arteries are the blood vessels that delivers oxygenated blood to the heart muscle. But, sometimes these blood vessels may get narrowed or blocked due to accumulation of plaque. To open the blockage and restore the function of the arteries, coronary angioplasty is done.
A coronary angioplasty involves the temporary insertion of a tiny balloon inside the artery to open the blockage. It is usually combined with the placement of a stent (a metal mesh tube) to widen the artery and prevent the further chance of narrowing.
Why is coronary angioplasty done?
Coronary angioplasty is done to treat narrowing or blockage of the blood vessels:
- during or after a heart attack.
- that may result in poor heart function.
- that reduce blood flow and may result in angina.
Sometimes, it also used as a treatment option when medication and lifestyle modifications fail to improve the heart health.
Risks of coronary angioplasty
Usually, it is a safe procedure, but like all other procedures, it also carries certain risks like:
- Bleeding at the incision site
- Infection at the site of the catheter
- Allergic reactions
- Blood clots
- Heart attack
- Kidney damage
- Bleeding in the abdomen
What happens before the procedure?
A physical examination and blood test are done to evaluate the overall health condition. The person needs to follow the below-given instructions before undergoing the procedure:
1. Tell the doctor about:
- Any allergies
- The use of current medicines, including vitamin and mineral supplements
- Any blood disorder
- Any surgery you may had
- The past and present medical condition
Tell the doctor if you are using blood thinners or any anti-diabetic medicines. The doctor will either advise you to stop or change the dose of the medication.
3. Food and fluid restrictions:
- Avoid heavy meals, such as meat, fried or fatty foods eight hours before the procedure. Take light foods such as toast and cereal.
- Fast for six hours before the procedure.
- Stay hydrated, drink plenty of fluid up to two hours before the procedure.
In most of the cases, you will be discharged on the same day of the hospital, so ask someone to accompany you to the hospital.
What happens during the procedure?
The anesthesiologist will administer local anaesthesia to numb the area where the catheter would be placed. Mostly, a catheter is inserted through the groin area, and sometimes through the elbow, or the wrist. Now, by using fluoroscopy (a type of X-ray), the catheter will be guided to the blocked artery. After the catheter reaches the heart, the contrast dye will be injected to make the blockage visible clearly on the X-ray.
Once the catheter reaches the blockage, a tiny balloon is inflated to widen the artery. The expansion will crush the plaques into the wall of the blood vessel and improve the blood flow. Once the blood flow is improved, the catheter will be removed, and a stent would be placed to prevent the risk of further blockage. Finally, the incision will be closed and covered with a sterilized bandage.
What to expect after the procedure?
The nurse will check the vitals of the patient. Depending on the condition, the doctor would advise you the hospital stay. You will be advised not to bend or cross the leg for a few days if the procedure is performed through the groin region. Additionally, some other tests like X-rays and an electrocardiogram (ECG) would be done to check the condition. Before discharge, the doctor will give you certain instructions regarding wound care, medications, and lifestyle.
Recovery after coronary angioplasty
Recover quickly and keep your heart healthy by following these tips:
- Quit smoking.
- Limit the intake of alcohol.
- Take the prescribed medicines.
- Check the cholesterol levels regularly.
- Maintain a healthy body weight.
- Have a healthy and well-balanced diet.
- Exercise regularly.