Balloon Angioplasty and Stent Placement

For many people, the passing years also include buildup of plaque in their arteries. Plaque is made of cholesterol, calcium, and fibrous tissue and it sticks to the walls of the blood vessels. As more and more plaque accumulates, your arteries narrow and stiffen, a process known as arteriosclerosis. This narrowing reduces blood flow and can lead to chest pain or shortness of breath if the arteries of the heart are involved, and leg pain or numbness if the arteries of the legs are blocked.

At Premier Cardiology Consultants, we use balloon angioplasty, often with the placement of a stent, to open the blockage and to minimize the chances of blockage recurring in the same location.

What is balloon angioplasty?

During angioplasty, we insert a balloon catheter, often mounted with a stent, into the artery with the blockage. We move the catheter to the area of the blockage and expand the balloon. This compresses the plaque against the wall of the artery and reduces the blockage, returning better blood flow. The balloon is deflated, but the stent remains in place keeping the artery open.

What is a stent?

Known mostly for their use with coronary artery disease, where stents have been widely used for over 20 years, stents can also be used in the leg arteries for the same purpose — to hold the artery open to maintain blood flow — in cases of peripheral artery disease.

Stents are basically like a scaffold that is inserted into your artery at the location of the blockage. This framework supports the artery walls, keeping them open and reducing the chances of recurrent blockage or narrowing after angioplasty. Stents are an expandable mesh tube made of medical-grade stainless steel or cobalt alloy metal. Stents can also be made of material that your body absorbs over time. Some also have a medicated coating to help prevent renarrowing or the formation of clots at the site of insertion.

Balloon angioplasty and stent placement Procedure

Whether for a coronary artery or a lower body artery, the procedure is the same. The area where the catheter will be inserted is numbed with local anesthetic. Then our vascular surgeons thread a thin wire into the blocked artery through a needle usually inserted into the blood vessel in your groin. A small amount of contrast liquid is put into your blood vessel through the catheter. This allows us to track the catheter as it moves through the artery. If inserting a stent, the stent is mounted onto the tiny balloon prior to insertion. The catheter is moved through the artery to the location of the blockage. Then the balloon is inflated to push the plaque outward and stretch the artery open to boost blood flow to the heart or down the legs. If we are also inserting a stent, when the balloon opens the stent expands to the size of the artery and holds it open. The balloon is then deflated and removed while the stent remains in place. Over a few weeks, your artery heals around the stent and it remains in place permanently.

What happens after my angioplasty?

After the procedure you will need to rest in bed for up to 24 hours, lying flat for the first few hours. You’ll usually stay in the hospital for one night, returning home the following day. You can usually resume most activities in just a day or two, but strenuous activity will have to wait a few weeks. If you received a stent, you’ll take medications to reduce the odds of forming a blood clot near the stent.

risks involved with angioplasty

Angioplasty and stent placement are generally safe and very successful. There are risks involved, however, and the Premier Cardiology team will discuss them with you. They involve heart attack, damage to the artery, injury to the groin at the catheter insertion point, formation of a blood clot at the stent location, and possible bleeding. In some patients, the arterial blockage can return within six months, although this is far less likely with a stent in place.

What happens if my angioplasty is not successful or not an option?

If angioplasty or atherectomy is not successful in opening a clogged artery, or for some reason is not an option, bypass surgery is often the next treatment option. In this surgery, the blocked artery is simply bypassed. While coronary bypass surgery is more common, leg arteries can also be bypassed if not responding to treatment.

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