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Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty

Coronary angioplasty, also called percutaneous coronary intervention, is a procedure used to open clogged heart arteries. Angioplasty involves temporarily inserting and inflating a tiny balloon at the site of the artery clog to help widen the artery.

Angioplasty is often combined with the permanent placement of a small wire mesh tube called a stent to help prop the artery open and decrease its chance of narrowing again. Some stents are coated with medication to help keep the artery open (drug-eluting stents), while others are not (bare-metal stents).

These procedures are performed in a cardiovascular catheterization laboratory, with local anesthesia. An IV (intravenous line) into the arm or hand will provide medication to make the procedure as comfortable as possible.

A catheter is inserted into a blood vessel in the femoral artery (in the groin) or in the radial artery (in the wrist). Using high-resolution fluoroscopic (X-ray) video and film equipment, the catheter is guided through to the coronary artery that is being treated. After the catheter is in place, the balloon is inflated, which crushes the plaque in to the walls of the artery and increasing the opening to promote better blood flow. After the blocked area of the artery is widened, the balloon is deflated and removed. Blood flowing through the artery is increased, supplying blood to the heart.

Coronary Stent Implants

Coronary stents are often implanted in conjunction with percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA). Coronary stent implants help hold open an artery so that blood can flow through the blocked or clogged coronary artery. The stent—a small, lattice-shaped wire mesh tube, props open the coronary artery and remains permanently in place. The stent is passed through the catheter and implanted in the coronary artery.

You can usually go home the next day and in many cases the same day once the sedation from the procedure has worn off and the ‘puncture site’ from the catheter shows no sign of bleeding. You will be required to take some form of antiplatelet therapy, such as Aspirin and Plavix, for at least 6 months and often longer. Your doctor will select the best medication regimen for you.

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