During a Coronary Angioplasty procedure, a balloon-tipped catheter is used to open one or more narrowed or blocked arteries in the heart. At times the balloon alone does not produce an adequate result and the doctor may place an expandable mesh stent within the vessel to reinforce the artery and strengthen the artery walls. A stent helps to increase blood flow and reduces the risk of a recurring blockage. If a stent is used it remains permanently inside the artery.
The catheter is usually introduced in the groin. The site is numbed and injected with local anaesthetic.
Locating the Blockage
The balloon-tipped catheter is guided to the heart and into the diseased coronary artery under x-ray imaging. When the balloon is inflated it flattens the plaque into the wall of the artery. This widens the inside of the artery to improve blood flow. If the artery is not opened sufficiently, one or more small, expandable mesh stents may be placed inside the artery. The stent will keep the artery from narrowing again in the future. The stent remains in the artery and becomes part of the artery’s wall. This takes about one month, and you should avoid heavy exertion during this time.
When a stent is used, the patient is given anti-clotting drug to reduce the risk of a blood clot. This medication is usually taken up to 12 months.
End of Procedure
When the cardiologist is sure that blood is flowing normally through the artery, the guide wire and catheters are removed. The patient is taken to a cardiac nursing unit, where the sheath is removed and the patient is monitored. If there are no complications, the patient may be discharged the next day.