When you suffer from coronary artery disease, a sticky substance called a plaque narrows or blocks the arteries in your heart.

Having an angioplasty treatment after a heart attack can lower your risk of complications within the first hours. The sooner you get heart attack treatment, the lesser your risk of heart failure, other complications and death.

What is Angioplasty?

The term angioplasty is derived from the word “angio” which means blood vessels and “plasty” means opening up.

An angioplasty is a medical procedure to open the blood vessels which supply your heart muscle with blood. These blood vessels are also referred to as coronary arteries. Cardiologists do this procedure often directly after a heart attack.

Cardiologists may advise patients to undergo angioplasty to help increase the blood flow of the heart, reduce chest pain or angina, and improve blood supply to the heart during or after a heart attack.

Types of Angioplasty

There are two main types of Angioplasty, namely:

Balloon Angioplasty - Balloon angioplasty includes the use of inflating balloon pressure to remove plaque that blocks an artery. This is frequently done except in cases where doctors can not place a stent in the necessary position.
Stent placement - this involves a tube, or stent, made of mesh wire. These help prevent an artery after angioplasty from opening up again.

Benefits of Angioplasty

Unlike open surgery, angioplasty is minimally invasive and is relatively low risk and low cost. Because these procedures are performed using conscious or moderate sedation rather than a general anesthetic, an extended stay in the hospital is usually not required

Furthermore, no surgical incision is required because the procedure is done by a small puncture in the skin and no stitching or sutures are involved. Soon thereafter you will also be able to continue your normal activities.

How to Prepare Before an Angioplasty

Angioplasty is a minimally invasive operation but it is still surgery and people have to follow the instructions of their doctor carefully in advance.

People need to keep their doctor aware of any prescriptions and supplements they take. In some cases, they may need to stop taking these medicines before the operation, especially blood thinners.

A patient may also have to avoid food or drink for several hours before the angioplasty surgery as they will need to be sedated by doctors.

Kidney examinations may also be required in advance, as the contrast dye used by doctors may affect the function of the kidney.

What Happens During Angioplasty?

A healthcare professional must cleanse and numb the region where the catheter enters the body, typically the groin but sometimes the wrist before performing angioplasty.

The doctor then implants the catheter into the artery and guides it toward the coronary artery, monitoring an X-ray monitor for its progress.

Once the catheter is placed, a contrast dye is injected through the artery by the doctor which helps to identify blockages around the heart. The doctor inserts a second catheter and a guidewire once the blockages are found, usually with a balloon at the end. The doctor inflates the balloon when the second catheter is in place which pushes away the plaque buildup and opens up the artery. The surgeon may also insert a stent to hold the propped artery open.

What to Expect After Angioplasty

Recovery from angioplasty is normally brief, in which many patients may go home for about 12 to 24 hours after removing the catheter. Patients will be able to continue their normal activities a few days to a week after the operation.

Bruising, discoloration and soreness are usually experienced at the area where the catheter was placed. Often, you may notice a small bump that should not increase in size. After the treatment, the doctor or nurse should give specific instructions on signs and symptoms to be aware of.