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Coronary Angioplasty:

Coronary angioplasty (AN-jee-oh-plas-tee) is a medical procedure used to restore blood flow through a narrowed or blocked artery in the heart. The arteries of the heart (the coronary arteries) can become narrowed and blocked due to buildup of a material called plaque on their inner walls.

What Is Coronary Angioplasty?

Coronary angioplasty (AN-jee-oh-plas-tee) is a medical procedure used to restore blood flow through a narrowed or blocked artery in the heart. The arteries of the heart (the coronary arteries) can become narrowed and blocked due to buildup of a material called plaque on their inner walls. This narrowing reduces the flow of blood through the artery and can lead, over time, to coronary artery disease and heart attack. In angioplasty, a thin tube with a balloon or other device on the end is first threaded through a blood vessel in the arm or groin (upper thigh) up to the site of a narrowing or blockage in a coronary artery. Once in place, the balloon is then inflated to push the plaque outward against the wall of the artery, widening the artery and restoring the flow of blood through it.

The illustration shows a cross-section of a coronary artery with plaque buildup. The coronary artery is located on the surface of the heart. Figure A shows the deflated balloon catheter inserted into the narrowed coronary artery. In Figure B, the balloon is inflated, compressing the plaque and restoring the size of the artery. Figure C shows normal blood flow restored in the widened artery.

Angioplasty is used to:

  • Relieve chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart.
  • Minimize damage to the heart muscle during a heart attack. This damage occurs when blood flow is totally cut off to an area of the heart.

Angioplasty was first used in 1977. A tiny balloon was used to open or widen narrowed arteries. Since then, new devices and medicines have improved the procedure and made it appropriate for more people. The improvements include:

  • Stents.stent is a tiny mesh tube that looks like a small spring. The stent is inserted in the area where the artery is narrowed to keep it open. Some stents are "coated" with medication to help prevent the artery from closing again. Stents are used in most angioplasties except when an artery is too small for a stent to fit.
  • When a stent is used, in 2 out of 10 people the artery will close again within the first 6 months.
  • When a stent is not used, in 4 out of 10 people the artery will close again within the first 6 months.
  • Plaque removers. Many kinds of plaque removers exist. They are used to cut away plaque that narrows the inside of the arteries.
  • Laser. A laser is used to dissolve or vaporize plaque. First approved in 1992, laser devices are used in many major U.S. medical centers.
  • Stent Placement

The illustration shows the placement of a stent in a coronary artery with plaque buildup. The coronary artery is located on the surface of the heart. Figure A shows the deflated balloon catheter and closed stent inserted into the narrowed coronary artery. In Figure B, the balloon is inflated, expanding the stent and compressing the plaque to restore the size of the artery. Figure C shows normal blood flow restored in the stent-widened artery.

Today, angioplasty is performed on more than 1 million people a year in the United States. The procedure is best done:

  • By doctors who do at least 75 angioplasties a year
  • In hospitals that do at least 400 angioplasties a year

Research on angioplasty continues to:

  • Increase its safety
  • Prevent the artery from closing again
  • Make it an option for more people

 

>back to "Cardiology"


 

 

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