Percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) is performed to open blocked coronary arteries caused by coronary artery disease (CAD) and to restore arterial blood flow to the heart tissue without open-heart surgery. A special catheter (long hollow tube) is inserted into the coronary artery to be treated.
This catheter has a tiny balloon at its tip. The balloon is inflated once the catheter has been placed into the narrowed area of the coronary artery. The inflation of the balloon compresses the fatty tissue in the artery and makes a larger opening inside the artery for improved blood flow.
The use of fluoroscopy (a special type of x-ray, similar to an x-ray â€œmovieâ€) assists the physician in the location of blockages in the coronary arteries as the contrast dye moves through the arteries. A small sample of heart tissue (called a biopsy) may be obtained during the procedure to be examined later under the microscope for abnormalities.
A technique called intravascular ultrasound (IVUS), a technique that uses a computer and a transducer that sends out ultrasonic sound waves to create images of the blood vessels, may be used during PTCA.
The use of IVUS provides direct visualization and measurement of the inside of the blood vessels and may assist the physician in selecting the appropriate size of balloons and/or stents, to ensure that a stent, if used, is properly opened, or to evaluate the use of other angioplasty instruments.
The physician may determine that another type of procedure is necessary. This may include the use of atherectomy (removal of plaque) at the site of the narrowing of the artery. In atherectomy, there may be tiny blades on a balloon or a rotating tip at the end of the catheter.
When the catheter reaches the narrowed spot in the artery, the plaque is broken up or cut away to open the artery. Atherectomy is used when the plaque is calcified, hardened, or if the vessel is completely closed. Another type of atherectomy procedure uses a laser, which opens the artery by "vaporizing" the plaque.
Reasons for the Procedure
PTCA is performed to restore coronary artery blood flow when the narrowed artery is in a location that can be reached in this manner. Not all coronary artery disease can be treated with PTCA.
Your physician will decide the best treatment of your CAD based on your individual circumstances. There may be other reasons for your physician to recommend a PTCA.