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.
Angioplasty is a minimally invasive procedure that does not require a general anesthetic and has an excellent record of success in appropriate cases.
Why do I need an angioplasty?
You may be a good candidate for angioplasty if:
- You suffer from angina (persistent chest pain)
- Your doctor has not been able to manage your symptoms with medication, and,
- You have not been able to improve with lifestyle changes (losing weight, stopping smoking, getting exercise.)
Prior to angioplasty, you will require an angiogram to determine the nature and extent of the blockages in your coronary arteries. Short blockages that are close to the beginning of the artery respond best to angioplasty. Longer, more complicated blockages, however, may require coronary bypass surgery.
Angioplasty Wait Times in Canada
An angioplasty is an expensive procedure and not available in all communities. As a result of rationing of care by the Canadian public health system, you may have to wait for others ahead of you in line, unless your case is considered to be an “emergency.” At that point, your risk factors may have increased. Because we view all heart conditions as urgent, Timely Medical Alternatives can help you find a private hospital to expedite your treatment so you can get back to living a full life.
Typically, we can get you surgery within 1-2 weeks from the time we receive your diagnostic package. In certain cases, we can get a client surgery within 24 hours. Call or e-mail us to get a accurate quote and timeline for your surgery.
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.
What happens after the procedure?
You may be required to stay in bed for up to 24 hours after your angioplasty. After you return home, you will likely be given instructions to limit your activities, not lift anything heavy for several weeks and to drink plenty of water to flush the dye out of your system. You may be prescribed aspirin or other drugs to thin your blood. In an appointment following the procedure, your doctor will likely perform tests to see how the blood is flowing through your treated artery.
Your surgeon can give you a better estimate of anticipated recovery time at the time of your consultation.