Angioplasty vs. Heart Bypass Surgery: Which Procedure is Better

Angioplasty vs. Heart Bypass Surgery: Which Procedure is Better

Which procedure would be better for fighting off your coronary artery disease that is blocking the blood supply to your heart? A heart bypass surgery or angioplasty?

Indeed, this is a difficult question with no simple answer. When diagnosed with coronary artery disease, you may be confused about which treatment to go for. To make this decision a bit simple for you, we have compared the benefits and drawbacks of both angioplasty and heart bypass surgery.

Read on to know how a bypass and angioplasty differ and how can you choose the best treatment for yourself.

What is Heart Bypass Surgery?

In a heart bypass surgery, the cardiac surgeon will create another route for the blood to flow around the blocked region of the heart. To restore blood flow, the surgeon can take a part of your healthy blood vessel from inside the chest wall or from your lower leg and attach it below and above your blocked artery to create a bypass. This allows the oxygen-rich blood to reach your heart.

Pros of heart bypass surgery 

  • Reduces chest pain and can be a permanent solution to your coronary artery disease
  • Reduces the risks of a heart attack

Cons of heart bypass surgery

  • Bleeding
  • Infections in the chest wound
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Kidney problems

What is Angioplasty?

Angioplasty uses a “balloon” to widen the narrowed or blocked coronary arteries. In this, the cardiac surgeon will make a small incision through which the catheter containing the balloon at its tip is inserted into the site of the blockage. When this balloon expands, the artery also widens. Nowadays, a stent which is a mesh-wired tube is also placed in the artery during angioplasty. The stent is left in the artery permanently and allows the blood to flow freely. This stent ensures that the particular artery stays widened as long as possible.

Pros of angioplasty

  • It is faster
  • The recovery period is less painful and shorter
  • The patient can resume normal activities after a 1-2 day stay at the hospital
  • It reduces the risk of a stroke

Cons of angioplasty

  • The artery may become narrowed again after an angioplasty
  • Blood clots may form in the stents
  • Blood vessels can be damaged in the region where the catheter has been inserted

Heart Bypass Surgery vs Angioplasty

Your cardiac surgeon has to consider various factors while deciding whether a heart bypass surgery or an angioplasty would be better for you. These can include the number of blocked arteries, your overall health, the location where the artery is blocked,  your medical history, and most importantly your preferences.

On the face of it, angioplasty seems to outweigh a heart bypass surgery because of the advantages it offers such as faster recovery. However, angioplasty doesn’t treat the underlying cause of coronary artery disease. Almost a quarter of patients who receive angioplasty have to undergo a bypass surgery after some time. Thus, when it comes to durability, a heart bypass stands out.  Bypass surgery is also a much better option in case of patients that have multiple blocked arteries.

Also, an angioplasty may not be suitable for everyone. People with diabetes and triple vessel disease (an extreme type of coronary artery disease) often have better results with bypass surgery as compared to angioplasty.

However, angioplasty has now become the treatment of choice for people suffering from less- severe coronary artery disease. Since it is less invasive, angioplasty can be performed in about an hour whereas a bypass surgery can take about 3-6 hours. Thus, angioplasty is a relatively faster option that allows the patient to return to normal life quickly. This is especially true for older patients, mostly above 65 years of age who have a higher chance of facing the complications of a heart bypass surgery.

Choosing Between Angioplasty and Heart Bypass Surgery

Though your cardiac surgeon will consider various factors while deciding the best treatment for you, it is equally important for you to be a part of this decision-making process. You should:

  • Discuss the pros and cons of each procedure carefully with your cardiac surgeon
  • Consider the recovery time
  • Check-in with your insurance provider as the cost of the treatment is also an important factor

If your region lacks access to quality cardiac surgeons or hospitals, then you can try searching for cardiac treatment in other countries to ensure that you receive the best care for your heart.

Choosing between angioplasty and a coronary artery bypass graft can seem confusing. However, by discussing various factors like the pros and cons of each procedure, cost, and your comfort level with your cardiac surgeon, you can reach a decision that you are happy with.

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Last modified on blank at Jan 23, 2024

Reviewed By :- Guneet Bhatia
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Urvi Agrawal

Urvi is an avid reader who is passionate about writing. Having worked in hospital settings like AIIMS, She has experience working as a healthcare writer and has written about many healthcare and medical topics. Besides her role as a content specialist, she likes to spend her time cooking, dancing, and painting. She believes that positive thinking is crucial for being happy.

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