Updated: August 18, 2020
Coronary artery disease occurs when the arteries in your heart are narrowed or blocked by a sticky material called plaque. Angioplasty is a procedure to restore blood flow through the artery. Angioplasty is done to reduce chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart and minimize damage to the heart muscle from a heart attack. The day after angioplasty, you can go home and will be able to return to work within a week of coming home.
Angioplasty is done immediately after a heart attack to open up the blocked coronary arteries. The procedure is also known a percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty. In most of the cases, a coronary artery stent is inserted following angioplasty which helps keep the blood flowing and the artery from narrowing again.
This is also known as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) which is a non-surgical procedure that opens blocked or narrowed coronary arteries. PCI includes the use of balloons, stents, and atherectomy devices. PCI can improve blood flow to your heart and relieve chest pain.
In some cases, the catheter is also equipped with a stainless steel mesh called a stent which acts as a scaffold to support the inside your coronary artery. The stent is used to hold the arteries open and can remain in place after the balloon is deflated and removed. Once the balloon is out, the catheter can also be removed. The procedure may take half an hour to several hours. Stents are usually made of metal and are permanent. But can also be made of a material that the body absorbs over time. It can be medicated to reduce the risk of the artery getting blocked again.
Various atherectomy or plaque removal devices are used as an alternative method. This includes:
This method uses a high-speed diamond-encrusted drill. The special catheter is guided to the point of the narrowing in your coronary artery. The tip spins at a high speed and grinds away the plaque on your artery walls which are washed away in your bloodstream. This process is repeated as needed to improve blood flow.
In this procedure, the catheter uses a hollow cylinder on the tip with an open window on one side and a balloon on the other. When the catheter is put into the narrowed artery, the balloon is inflated pushing the window against the plaque. A blade in the cylinder rotates and shaves off any plaque that sticks up into the window. The shavings are caught in the catheter chamber and removed. This process is repeated as needed to allow for better blood flow.
Here the catheter has a special balloon tip with small blades. When the balloon is inflated, the blades are activated and start cutting the plaque. Then the balloon presses the plaque against the artery wall.