What is Coronary Angioplasty? Is it performed only for the heart?

Coronary Angioplasty is a non surgical procedure that is aimed at widening the clogged arteries. This medical procedure is done for many other arteries too but as the name suggest, “coronary” angioplasty is done specifically for the arteries that form crown like structure around the other arteries.

When do you need to get the angioplasty done?

Narrowing of blood vessels is one of the most common causes of heart ailments. Gradually, the plaque buildup hardens the arteries to the extent that the blood flow through them gets interrupted. The doctor diagnoses this condition with the help of angiogram. Depending on the condition of the blockage, the doctor may advise you angioplasty.

What happens during an angioplasty procedure? Does it take place in Operation Theater?

Angioplasty procedure takes place in catheterization laboratory that has high tech imaging facilities. Your doctor will insert a flexible tube (called catheter) through a sheath in your arm or leg. To view the condition of your arteries and also, to locate the blockages, the physician will inject a radio-opaque dye. Throughout the procedure, your blood pressure and functioning of valves would be monitored constantly and images will be taken at regular intervals. Once the blockage has been located, the doctor would place a balloon catheter in the narrowed artery and inflate it gradually to push the fatty deposits against the walls of your arteries. Now, since the deposition has been washed off, the blood will flow more freely to the heart’s muscles.

How much time does it take?

It usually takes 30 minutes to 2 hours. But you may be required to stay in the hospital overnight or even more depending on your heart’s condition.

What are the dos and don’ts before getting the procedure done?

Ask your doctor regarding what all you can eat and drink before the procedure. It is usually advised to not to eat for 8 hours before the procedure. However, you can have clear liquids until 2 hours before the procedure.
Do inform your doctor about all the prescribed and over-the counter medicines that you are currently taking (or have been taking since long). Do not forget to inform him about the allergies (if any) your body has a tendency to develop on being administered with any class of drugs.

What to expect after the procedure?

After the procedure goes successful, a pressure bandage or some sort of sandbag will be placed at the insertion site to prevent bleeding. You will be advised to keep your leg still for few hours after the catheter has been removed. Also, to flush out the dye that was injected during the procedure, you will be required to take plenty of fluids.
You may feel drowsy due to sedatives and may encounter slight pain or soreness at the site of insertion for few hours after the procedure.

What are the risks involved?

As with any other medical procedure, some minor risks are involved in coronary angioplasty too.
1. Bleeding at the site of insertion
2. Damage in blood vessels, if the catheter has been placed carelessly.
3. The dyes used may turn toxic for the kidney.
4. Sometimes, the balloon blocks the blood flow through the heart, instead of widening the arteries. In such cases, patients may feel chest pain and irregular heartbeats during the procedure.
5. The probability of major risks such as heart attack, stroke or death is as low as 3 %, 1% and 2% respectively.

Dr Ashwin Mehta is one of the well known cardiologist to consult in Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, Mumbai for coronary angioplasty. He has performed over 10,000 angioplasties and supervised more than 50,000 angiographies till date. There is also specialized cardiology department consisting of experienced cardiologist you can consult at Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai Central.

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