Balloon Angioplasty: Why It’s Done?

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Balloon angioplasty, also known as angioplasty or percutaneous transluminal angioplasty (PTA), is usually used to treat arterial atherosclerosis by relaxing and widening the narrowed and blocked arteries and veins.

In the procedure, a catheter with a deflated balloon attached at the tip is inserted with the help of a guided wire into the blocked artery which is then inflated to widen the artery. The force of the balloon expands the blood vessels and thus improves the blood flow.

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Sometimes balloon angioplasty is combined with the stent placement. A stent is a small wire mesh tube that helps keep the artery open and reduce its chances of getting narrowed again. Usually, the stents are coated with some kind of medicine that helps the artery to remain open. But in some rare cases, metal stents without medication are used.

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Why Is Balloon Angioplasty Done?

Sometimes due to an unhealthy diet or a sedentary lifestyle or due to any other condition, plaque gets deposited on the wall of the arteries carrying blood to the heart. This build-up plaque leads to a heart disease known as atherosclerosis. In such a case, balloon angioplasty can be useful. Angioplasty can be used in any of the following cases:

  • When the blocked arteries lead to severe chest pain or angina.
  • Lifestyle changes of any medications don’t improve your heart health.
  • If you get a heart attack.

Balloon angioplasty is not used every time. Sometimes based on your heart health and overall medical condition, your doctor may prefer coronary artery bypass over balloon angioplasty.

What Are The Risks And Other Complications?

Though balloon angioplasty is quite safe as compared to bypass surgery, it possesses some risk and other health complications like:

  • At the location where the catheter is inserted in the legs or arms, you may have bleeding. Though it is not a major issue and just a bruise, the bleeding may be severe and often require a blood transfusion in some rare cases.
  • When the doctor places a stent during angioplasty, there might be a risk that the arteries may get clogged again.
  • After placing the stents, there might be chances of clot formation, which can block the arteries, thus leading to a heart attack.
  • In some rarest cases, the patient might get a heart attack during the procedure.
  • During the balloon angioplasty procedure, there might be a chance that your coronary artery gets damaged which then needs immediate bypass surgery.
  • In people who are already suffering from kidney problems, the dye used during the procedure may lead to kidney damage.
  • During the angioplasty procedure, you may also experience irregular heartbeats which can make your situation worse.

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How Balloon Angioplasty Is Carried Out?

Angioplasty is generally carried out through the artery of your arm, leg, or wrist, which normally doesn’t require anesthesia. However, the doctor may give you some sedatives which will keep you relaxed. 

  • The doctor then applies the antiseptic solution to the area of either of your leg, arm or wrist. With the help of local anaesthesia, the doctor will numb the area of interest and make a small incision from which a thin and small guidewire is inserted inside the blood vessel. Now with the help of live X rays, the doctor will carry a catheter with the deflated balloon at its tip through your artery.
  • When the catheter reaches the proper place, contrast dye is injected through the catheter that helps the doctor see the blockage kn Xray images known as angiograms.
  • Once the blockage is identified, the deflated balloon at the tip of the catheter is inflated to open the blocked artery. Sometimes a stent is also combined with angioplasty.
  • At last, when the artery gets widened, the balloon is deflated once again and the catheter is removed.

After the surgery, your doctor may suggest you the following lifestyle changes for your speedy recovery and for keeping your heart healthy:

  • Quit smoking
  • Limiting alcohol intake
  • Manage your blood sugar and cholesterol levels
  • Have a healthy and low-fat diet
  • Exercise daily
  • Control body weight 
  • Keep an eye on your blood pressure

After the angioplasty, if you experience any of the following things then immediately reach out to your doctor:

  • Bleeding, discomfort or pain at the site of insertion of the catheter.
  • Redness, swelling or any kind of infection at the site where the catheter is inserted.
  • Fever
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Change in the color of the area of the procedure.

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Balloon angioplasty is done to unblock the clogged arteries, thus improving the blood flow.

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