Coronary angioplasty is a medical procedure in which narrowed arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle are widened. This allows for improved flow of blood through these arteries to the heart, without the need for open-heart surgery.
The purpose of angioplasty is to widen narrowed or blocked arteries, so that enough blood can get to the heart to deliver the oxygen it needs to function properly.
- Angioplasty is designed to relieve the chest pain a person usually feels when the heart is not getting enough blood and oxygen.
- Angioplasty can also reduce the risk of having a heart attack in someone with severely narrowed arteries in the heart.
Coronary is from the Latin word for 'crown'. The arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood are known as the coronary arteries since they surround the heart like a crown. 'Angio' is from the Greek word for vessel, and 'plasty' is from the Greek word for shaping.
Arteries become narrowed by a build-up of fat and cholesterol called plaque and is a sign of coronary artery disease.
In an angioplasty:
- A specially trained doctor inserts a long, narrow tube (called a catheter) through a small cut in the thigh or the arm.
- The doctor threads the catheter through blood vessels leading to the heart until it reaches the narrowed part of the artery.
- The doctor positions a tiny balloon that is attached to the tip of the catheter right at site of the narrowing, and then inflates it with air. The pressure of the balloon flattens the plaque and allows the artery to open wider.
- Often, a tiny wire tube called a stent is left inside the artery to hold it open.
Sometimes, instead of flattening the plaque with a balloon, other angioplasty methods are used:
- Atherectomy is a form of angioplasty that uses tiny blades or a drill-like tip on the end of the catheter to cut away or drill through the plaque.
- Laser angioplasty uses laser energy to destroy plaque.