What Is It?
Angioplasty is a procedure in which a tiny device is inserted into narrowed blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. This device widens the arteries and increases blood flow.
Balloon angioplasty, also known as percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA), uses a small, thin tube (called a catheter) with a tiny balloon at its tip. The tube is inserted into the bloodstream through a large vessel in the arm or leg. By watching the progress of the tube on an X-ray, the cardiologist guides the tube into the heart, where it is inserted into a narrowed coronary artery. The tiny balloon is then inflated to widen the narrowed area.
During most of these procedures, cardiologists also insert a metal wire frame that serves as a scaffolding to help keep the artery open. This device is called a stent. A blocked artery is less likely to close up if a stent is in place. About 30 percent of patients experience a re-closing of the blocked area within 6 months even if a stent is not used. Newer stents that are coated with drugs can reduce the rate of re-narrowing of the artery, but patients who receive these newer stents must take blood thinning drugs to reduce the risk of clot formation for a year or more after the procedure.
Atherectomy uses a device to cut into the plaque, physically removing it from the lining of the affected blood vessel. This is often done along with balloon angioplasty or stenting.
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