Blocked arteries are just one of many reasons why a heart attack can occur but luckily there is a procedure that can help. Angioplasty, sometimes called percutaneous coronary intervention, is the medical procedure performed that can unblock a clogged artery. If you are in the midst of a heart attack or showing signs of one with such symptoms as shortness of breath or chest pain, doctors can perform an angioplasty to unclog an artery. Prompt action can keep damage to the heart at a minimum.
The angioplasty procedure itself
Over one million angioplasty procedures are performed every year on people with heart troubles. This process involves inserting a small probe into an artery and navigating it to the blocked site. Once there, a small balloon is inflated at the blockage which serves to widen the artery to allow blood flow so your heart and body are not starved for the nutrients and oxygen they need.
During the angioplasty procedure, surgeons may also implant a tiny coil made of metal into the clogged artery. Called a stent, this metal coil serves to support the artery at the blockage site to ensure there is less probability of it narrowing or clogging up again. This narrowing of the artery is called restenosis.
Who requires an angioplasty?
Sometimes, no matter what you do to prevent your arteries from clogging, it can still occur. Diet, exercise and medications are not always going to solve your problem, especially if it is one you have had for a long time. In addition, if you are having a heart attack or showing the symptoms of an impending one, your doctor will suggest an angioplasty as a precaution.
A coronary angiogram must be taken first to find out where your arterial blockage is. This is a test that takes an image of the heart and arteries that would show potential problems as well as definitively show whether you would be a good candidate for this procedure. If your blockage can be reached by the probe used for angioplasty and your blockage is small, you would be a good candidate for it. Also, if you are not in heart failure and the artery is not the primary one that supplies the blood to the left side of your heart, you would be good to go.
When the heart is in failure, is too weak or the main artery to the heart is compromised, a coronary artery bypass surgery is the best option for you. Other health issues such as diabetes could preclude you from the angioplasty procedure as well.
Benefits of the angioplasty procedure
While there are some risks of angioplasty, the benefits usually far outweigh the risks, especially when your life is on the line. The procedure is not traumatic in that no general anesthesia is needed and the surgeons do not have to make any big incisions. Your symptoms are usually relieved quickly and complications of the angioplasty are rare.
The main worry about angioplasty is the fact that the newly unblocked artery may re-narrow (restenosis) and cause another clog. Blood clots are a concern around the inserted stent as well. Luckily with different medications such as blood thinners in those first few weeks, these problems can be kept to a minimum so that you can enjoy the benefits of no pain from your heart problems.