In the term angioplasty, “angio” means blood vessel, and “plasty” is opening up.
In PCI, the “P” stands for percutaneous or “through the skin” while coronary refers to the location of blood vessels around the heart.
In these conditions, there is a buildup of plaque, or atherosclerosis, on the walls of the arteries. As plaque accumulates, the arteries narrow and can become blocked.
In a heart attack, the plaque may rupture, spilling cholesterol into an artery, potentially leading to a clot that stops blood flow.
During a standard angioplasty, the doctor makes an incision in the groin or wrist and inserts a tube, or catheter, into an artery.
Next, they thread the catheter upwards and into the affected blood vessel around the heart.
Usually, the catheter contains an inflatable balloon that displaces the plaque or clot, effectively opening up the artery.
Doctors use live X-rays and a contrast dye to guide the catheter and assess the arteries they need to treat.
Compared with heart surgery, angioplasty is a minimally invasive as it does not involve opening up the chest.
Doctors may recommend angioplasty to:
- treat an abnormal stress test
- increase blood flow to the heart
- reduce chest pain, or angina
- improve blood supply to the heart muscle during or after a heart attack
- support more activity for people with chest pain
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