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Angioplasty: Symptoms, Classification, Diagnosis & Recovery

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is one of the most common heart diseases reported across the world. It results due to blood clot formation and plaque accumulation in the major blood vessels of the heart.

Balloon angioplasty is the most common endovascular procedure (procedure performed inside the blood vessel) carried out to treat coronary artery disease. In this procedure, the blood clots in the major arteries of the heart are detected and cleared by inserting a catheter into an artery of the hand (radial artery) or leg (femoral artery). This catheter consists of a balloon at its tip, which dislodges the clot to the periphery of the blood vessel after inflation.

Angioplasty may or may not be followed by coronary stent placement, depending on the angiography findings. This procedure is performed in patients with fewer blood clots in the vessels and those who do not respond to medications. It may also be carried out as an emergency procedure to treat a heart attack.

Signs and symptoms of plaque deposits in the heart

  • Fatigue and dizziness due to insufficient blood supply to the tissues and overall decreased efficacy of the heart
  • Shortness of breath to compensate for inadequate pumping of the blood
  • Compromised blood flow to the heart resulting in heart attack, characterized by pain in the chest, lower jaw, and left arm

Well before the day of the surgery, the doctor will examine your general health through physical examination and other diagnostic tests such as blood tests, electrocardiogram, and a chest X-ray.

The doctor will also review your medical history and advise you to undergo a coronary angiogram to identify the number and location of blockages. This test helps differentiate between narrowing and blockage of the arteries. You are also likely to receive instructions on eating and drinking before the day of angioplasty. Typically, patients are advised not to drink or eat at least six to eight hours prior to the surgery.

The following steps are involved in a typical balloon angioplasty procedure:

Step 1: Placing the patient on oral sedatives

Step 2: Administration of general anaesthesia

Step 3: Incision at the femoral artery or radial artery

Step 4: Insertion of catheter into the artery through an incision

Step 5: Guiding the catheter up to the base of the coronary artery

Step 6: Insertion of a guidewire from within the catheter into the artery up to the site of the blood clot

Step 7: Insertion of contrast dye through the catheter

Step 8: Checking for the blocks through a radiograph

Step 9: Identifying the pinpoint location of the blood clot

Step 10: Passage of guide wire through catheter just beyond the region of clot

Step 11: Inflating and deflating the balloon till normal blood flow is obtained from the vessel

Step 12: Stabilizing the stent in place

Step 13: Retrieving the catheter

  • You should drink plenty of fluids after the procedure. This will help the contrast dye injected into your body to dissociate easily.
  • Avoid smoking for at least one to two days after the procedure to accelerate your body’s healing ability and reduce heart stent recovery time.
  • Till two days after the procedure, avoid walking or standing for a long time
  • If you have a stent placed, avoid vigorous exercises for up to 30 days after the procedure. Doing so will interfere with heart stent recovery time.

Contraindications: You may not be suggested to undergo balloon angioplasty if the access vessel (femoral or radial artery) is of insufficient size and quality.

Recovery time: You will be discharged from the hospital in one day. But you should avoid strenuous activities for one month after being discharged from the hospital. 

Prognosis: According to research, 79 percent of the people who receive the stent after a balloon angioplasty are relieved from angina for up to 5 years.

Benefits:

  • Simple procedure with faster recovery
  • Fewer chances of stroke during the procedure
  • Fewer chances of infection
  • Short time of hospitalization
  • Lower blood loss

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Is placing a coronary stent mandatory?

A. Placement of a coronary stent depends on the extent of the clot. If there are chances of recurrence of the condition with a normal balloon angioplasty, a stent is placed.

Q. What is the duration of the procedure?

A. The duration of balloon angioplasty and stent placement is between one and a half to two hours.

Q. Why am I not allowed to eat anything from the night before the procedure?

A. As you would be placed under general anaesthesia, food and water are avoided to prevent accidental aspiration of food particles into the respiratory tract.

Q. When can I get back to my day to day activities after angioplasty?

A. The total heart stent recovery time for you to get back to your day to day activities is three to four weeks.