Following a diagnostic angiogram, your doctor may determine you would benefit from an angioplasty. In this procedure, the physician threads a thin plastic tube topped by a very small balloon into the artery in your heart that has been narrowed or blocked by coronary artery disease.
Coronary artery disease occurs when the blood vessels that supply your heart becomes narrowed or blocked by fatty deposits known as plaque. This plaque narrows the arteries – and sometimes even blocks them – making it difficult for the blood to get through.
The angioplasty balloon, when it is inflated, will clear small blockages. The doctor then deflates the balloon and removes it. Sometimes, however, this is not enough to keep the artery open, and, in those cases, the doctor will insert a vascular stent. This is a small wire mesh tube that is left in the artery permanently. The stent may also be coated with drugs that are aimed at preventing post-procedure infection.
If a stent (a tiny mesh tube that looks like a small spring) is being used, the doctor will remove the first catheter and insert new one with a closed stent surrounding a deflated balloon. He or she will position it where the artery was previously widened and inflate the balloon, expanding the stent. The doctor then deflates and removes the balloon, leaving the stent behind. The entire angioplasty procedure may be as brief as 30 minutes or may take up to two hours, depending on the complexity of your case.
Angioplasty is a minimally invasive procedure that does not require a general anesthetic and has an excellent record of success in appropriate cases.