Heart Angioplasty

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Heart Angioplasty Facts

Heart disease affects a substantial part of the population and is one of the leading causes of death in the developed world. Heart disease is a general term for the different types of problems that may affect the heart.

The most common is coronary heart disease and is sometimes called coronary artery disease. Coronary heart disease or coronary artery disease results from the narrowing of the blood vessels in the heart and in other parts of the body. The narrowing is caused by a buildup of plaque in the blood vessels and is referred to as atherosclerosis. This buildup of plaque not only causes narrowing of the vessels but can result in blockage. The narrowing or blockage means that there is a limited amount of blood flowing through the arteries which consequently denies life giving oxygen to the body tissues. Blockage of the coronary arteries will result in angina, which is chest pain. This can lead to heart attack.

To reverse the blockage in the coronary arteries, a heart angioplasty is carried out. A heart angioplasty, also called a percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) is the most popular method of dealing with atherosclerosis. It is popular because it is a minimally invasive procedure.

During a heart angioplasty procedure, the doctor will insert a catheter or a thin, flexible tube which has a deflated balloon attached to it into the blocked artery. Pressure is then used to inflate the balloon to expand the artery and compress the plaque. The balloon is afterwards deflated and removed. This is called a balloon angioplasty. Sometimes, a stent is added to the balloon so that when the balloon is deflated and removed, the stent, which is a bit of wire mesh tubing, is left behind to support the artery walls. This is to avoid the walls from collapsing and the reoccurrence of the blockage. Stents are referred to as PCIs (percutanous coronary interventions).

There are chances of a blockage recurring (referred to as restenosis) after a heart angioplasty. This is the main reason why it is quite common for an angioplasty to include stenting.

While balloon angioplasty is the most common heart angioplasty procedure, there are other methods used. These methods are atherectomy, rotoblation and cutting balloon. All these procedures also use special type of catheters. These are more complex procedures and are being done less and less due to the success rate of the balloon angioplasty.

Not all cardiac patients are eligible for a heart angioplasty. Eligibility will depend on age, medical history and the extent blockage in the coronary arteries. The doctor may perform a heart bypass surgery instead of a heart angioplasty.

Angioplasty is not only carried out for the arteries in the heart but also for arteries in other parts of the body.

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