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Did you know that about one in every 13 adult Americans has coronary artery disease? It occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart start to narrow and harden. The narrowing is caused by a buildup of cholesterol, or plaque, on the walls of the arteries (a process known as atherosclerosis). As the plaque builds up, it becomes harder for blood to reach the heart muscles. This increases a person’s risk of angina or a heart attack.
If your cardiologist has diagnosed you with coronary artery disease, chances are good that you will need an angioplasty to restore blood flow through these arteries. Angioplasty is often recommended for those who are experiencing chest pain, or if the blockage increases their chances of having a heart attack.
How Does an Angioplasty Work?
During the angioplasty, your cardiologist will numb a region in either the groin or the arm. They will place a small tube (or catheter) into the artery. The catheter is then directed through the arteries until it reaches the coronary artery. An X-ray screen is used to help your cardiologist carefully guide the catheter where it needs to go in the arterial system. Once the catheter is in the coronary artery, we will thread a thin wire with an expandable balloon through the catheter to the blockage.
The balloon is then inflated to push away plaque and to expand the artery. This will allow more blood to flow through it. The balloon catheter may be inflated several times during the procedure to get enough blood flow to the artery. In many cases, during the angioplasty, as the balloon is inflating the artery, we will place a stent (or mesh tube) into the wall of the artery using the balloon. The stent will lock in place and ensure that the artery stays open. Once complete, the catheter and balloon are removed.
An angioplasty is not painful, and can even be performed while the patient is awake. Medications can be prescribed to help you relax. We will numb the area prior to placing the catheter, so you may feel some slight pressure as the catheter is placed. Typically, patients stay overnight following the procedure.
If you have any questions about angioplasty or coronary artery disease, contact us today!