Your heart pumps oxygenated blood throughout your body, and it relies on arteries to transport the blood. If any of your arteries become blocked or narrowed, that blood flow is reduced, and you can suffer from chest pain, and even a heart attack. This type of heart disease, known as obstructive heart disease, can cause permanent damage to the heart if the heart goes too long without oxygenated blood.
Angioplasty is a minimally invasive procedure that can help unblock the arteries and restore normal oxygenated blood flow. This procedure may be planned ahead of time if you are having intermittent chest pain, have chronic fatigue with shortness of breath with activity, or have a positive stress test that is performed at your physician’s office. It may be done as an emergency treatment if you are having a heart attack.
What to Expect
Before the procedure, give your doctor a list of all the medications you take, including any over-the-counter or herbal medications. You may need to stop taking aspirin, blood thinners, and other drugs prior to angioplasty. Also let your doctor know about any allergies you have—especially if you are allergic to shellfish. You will likely be advised not to eat or drink for several hours before the treatment. Be sure to check with the physician performing the procedure to see if you should continue taking blood pressure or other heart medications.
During an angioplasty, you will lie on an examining table and be given a light sedative. You will be awake or mildly drowsy, since the medical team will be asking you questions or giving instructions during the procedure. You will be connected to monitors so the medical team can continuously review your pulse, blood pressure, and heart rhythm.
A local anesthetic will be administered and a small incision will be made for a point of entry, often at your groin, but sometimes in a wrist or arm. Using X-rays as guidance, your surgeon will insert a catheter through your skin into the artery and move it up to the site of the artery blockage. Next, contrast material will be injected through the catheter. This material will make your arteries visible on the X-ray monitor screen.
Your surgeon will insert a guide wire, and then a balloon-tipped catheter. After the catheter reaches the blockage site, the balloon inflates, which helps flatten the blockage and open the artery so oxygenated blood flow can be restored. During angioplasty, your surgeon may also place a stent, which is a small tube of plastic or wire mesh, in your artery, which will help to keep the blockage flat and the artery open.
When blood flow has been restored, the catheter and guide wire are removed. This procedure may be repeated if you have more than one blocked artery. The treatment can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours, depending on how many arteries are affected.
What to Do After Angioplasty
After the procedure, you will be monitored for several hours and then sent home that same day, or the next day. As you recover, the incision site may feel sore or bruised. Be sure that you rest and drink plenty of fluids for 24 to 48 hours. Your doctor may also prescribe blood thinners to help prevent blood clots.
Angioplasty is a highly effective procedure that can treat narrowed and blocked arteries, but it does not cure heart disease. Talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes you should make to keep your heart healthy. These may include regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and giving up a smoking.
North Hills Hospital is a leader in cardiac care for Northeast Tarrant County. With its nationally accredited Chest Pain Center and our newly accredited Heart Failure Center, we provide state-of-the-art cardiac care. Our door-to-balloon time, a measurement from the time you get to the emergency room until we get the artery open, averages 35-45 minutes—very fast! We also offer off-pump beating heart surgery if your doctor decides that is the best treatment option for your heart disease.
For more information, please visit us online. If you need a physician referral, please call (817) 255-1894.