Coronary angioplasty and stents
Stents are used during a coronary angioplasty operation. The operation helps to relieve blockages or narrowing of arteries.
It helps improve your blood supply to the heart muscle and can help to relieve angina symptoms. You might also have angioplasty if you’ve already had a coronary bypass but your angina has returned.
You’ll usually have an angiogram before your angioplasty, but sometimes this is carried out at the same time. Angioplasty is sometimes used as an emergency treatment for people that have had a heart attack or unstable angina (angina that comes on with less and less physical activity or even while you are resting).
What will happen during my angioplasty procedure?
At the start of the procedure a catheter – a fine, flexible, hollow tube – with a small inflatable balloon at its tip will be passed into an artery in either your groin or your arm.
The operator then uses X-ray screening to direct the catheter into a coronary artery until its tip reaches a narrow or blocked section. This is sometimes called cardiac catheterisation.
The balloon will then be gently inflated so that it squashes the fatty tissue in the narrowed artery, allowing the blood to flow more easily. The catheter contains a stent - a small tube of stainless steel mesh. As the balloon is inflated, the stent expands so that it holds open the narrowed blood vessel. The balloon is let down and removed, leaving the stent in place.
If you have a stent, you’ll need to take certain anti-platelet drugs to help reduce the risk of blood clots forming round the stent.
What happens after the procedure?
When the test is over, the catheters are removed.
What should I do if I get chest pain after I go home?
If you have not been diagnosed with heart disease and you get chest pain, you should call 999 immediately for an ambulance.
How successful is coronary angioplasty?
In the majority of cases, the blood flow through the artery is improved, and many people will find that their symptoms have improved.
Sometimes the stent which has been inserted into the artery can become narrowed later on (restenosis). The blood flow through the artery can become limited which can cause angina.
Are there any risks?
A small number of people have complications. Very occasionally, the treatment completely blocks the coronary artery and if the doctor thinks that this will do serious damage to the heart, a bypass operation might need to be done. Urgent surgery is needed in around one in every 1,000 cases.
There is a small risk of having a heart attack or stroke. If you are in a stable condition when you have the angioplasty, the risk of this happening is less than one in 100. The risk varies depending on your overall health and your individual heart condition.