Coronary angioplasty is also known as percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA). If a permanent stent is also put in place to keep the artery open after PTCA, this is known as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI). This is a minimally invasive procedure that is done without general anesthesia to open blocked arteries on the heart to improve blood flow to the heart muscle. This can help reduce or relieve chest pain and shortness of breath.
If you are seeking coronary angioplasty treatment, contact Colorado Springs Cardiology today!
What is this for?
The arteries on the heart can become blocked with fatty plaques that reduce the amount of blood flowing through them. The accumulation of fatty plaques in these arteries is a type of heart disease called atherosclerosis. Your doctor may recommend this procedure for you if:
- You have chest pain (also known as angina) that is getting worse.
- You have tried making lifestyle changes and medications, but your heart disease or symptoms are getting worse.
- You have had a heart attack and the doctor wants to open the blocked artery quickly to reduce damage to your heart muscle.
How is the PTCA procedure performed?
A coronary angioplasty is performed using local anesthetic while you are awake. It is common to have one or more stents placed during this procedure as well to keep the artery open. A stent is a hollow wire mesh tube that is inserted into an artery permanently to keep it open and improve blood flow through the artery.
During the procedure, a flexible thin tube called a catheter is inserted into a large artery in the arm, wrist, or groin. The doctor uses medical imaging to see the coronary arteries to help him/her guide the catheter to the blocked artery. Once the catheter reaches the blocked artery, a tiny balloon is inflated to clear the blockage and lock the stent in place (if a stent is required).
What can I expect during the procedure?
A cardiologist (heart specialist) will perform the procedure with a team of medical technicians and nurses in a special procedure room called a cardiac catheterization laboratory.
You will be given a sedative to help you relax and you will be awake for the procedure, depending on how sedated you are from the medication. You will have an IV in your arm or hand and be given medications to thin your blood (anticoagulants) and help you relax. Your vital signs will be closely monitored including your heart rate and rhythm, your respiratory rate, oxygen levels in your blood, and your blood pressure.
An area on your arm, wrist, or groin will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution and a sterile sheet with an opening will be placed across the area. Local anesthetic will be used to numb the area where the doctor will make a small incision and insert a guidewire into a large artery followed by the thin flexible catheter. If a stent is being placed, it will surround the outside of the balloon. You may feel some pressure at the area where the catheter is inserted.
Using medical imaging, the doctor will thread the guidewire and catheter up to the heart where the blocked artery is located. Once the catheter is in place, contrast dye is injected into the artery so the doctor can see where the blockage is on x-ray (known as an angiogram). Once the blockage is identified, the doctor inflates the balloon (with or without a stent around it) and flattens the plaque buildup against the walls of the artery to open it. If a stent is being inserted, the balloon inflation locks the stent in place. When the blockage is cleared, the balloon is deflated and removed.
You might feel some mild discomfort during the balloon inflation when the artery blockage is being cleared and the artery is being stretched open. However, you should not experience any sharp pain.
If there are several areas of blockage, the procedure may be repeated at each blockage. The procedure can take from 30 minutes to several hours, depending on how difficult the blockage is to access, the number of blockages to be cleared, and any complications that may arise during the procedure. Additional x-ray pictures of the coronary arteries are taken after the procedure to confirm adequate blood flow through the newly opened artery.
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