Is angioplasty the best answer for coronary artery disease?

Coronary artery disease, or CAD, is a common ailment in people over forty years of age. The main cause of CAD is the buildup of plaque on the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. The prevalence of coronary artery disease in India is about 21.4% for people with diabetes, and it is 11% for nondiabetics. Doctors will recommend cardiac catheterization once they suspect plaque buildup. With this procedure, they will be able to identify the number of arteries that are blocked in the heart. Depending on the extent of the blockage, they would either recommend angioplasty or bypass surgery.

Symptoms of coronary artery disease

Most of the time, the disease remains silent and will show symptoms only at its late stages. Doctors term it a heart attack when the following symptoms show up. 

  • Angina, or chest pain, is categorized by tightness and squeezing sensation in the chest.
  • Cold sweats and dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Pain in the neck, left hand, and shoulder
  • Nausea and indigestion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling weak.


What are the indications for angioplasty procedure?

After diagnosing a heart attack, doctors will recommend cardiac catheterization to understand the extent of the damage. If they find only one artery to be narrowed, they will recommend lifestyle changes and medications as the first line of treatment. If there are two or three blocks, doctors will recommend coronary angioplasty. 

Angioplasty or CABG? 

A coronary artery bypass graft is a surgical approach to bypass the block in the artery. Doctors will remove a healthy blood vessel from the leg and use it to bypass the blocked blood vessels in the heart. This helps the blood to flow freely into the heart muscle. Doctors will recommend CABG when multiple arteries in the heart are narrow and have blocks. 

In patients with two or three blocks and for those who do not qualify for surgery, doctors prescribe angioplasty. Coronary angioplasty is a minimally invasive procedure and has minimal complications. It has minimal recovery time and the cost of the procedure is also less, compared with CABG.

Alternate types of angioplasty:

For those who do not qualify for a conventional coronary angioplasty, doctors recommend alternate techniques. This is particular in case of individuals who have hard fatty deposits in theri coronary arteries. In such instances, doctors will recommend destroying or cutting away these deposits completely. Examples of these procedures are,

  • PTCRA – This percutaneous transluminal rotational atherecomy procedure makes use of a small rotating device. This device helps to remove the fatty deposit completely. 
  • Percutaneous laser angioplasty technique makes use of a laser device to burn away the fatty deposits in the arteries.

What are stents? Why are they used in angioplasty?

Coronary stents help to treat coronary artery disease. It is a vital component in all angioplasty procedures. It is a tiny metal mesh coil that is capable of expanding. Doctors will place it in the coronary artery that has its plague removed. These stents will prevent the arteries from closing or narrowing again. After doctors palace the stent, the tissues in the blood vessel will start to coat it like the layer of the skin. This will ensure to restore the coronary artery blood flow. Most of the stents have a medicine coating to prevent the scar tissue from developing inside the stent. 

Bottom Line:

Angioplasty is a life saving procedure that helps in dealing with blocks in the blood vessels of the heart. It helps prevent the collapse of heart functions and cardiologists perform this procedure in a cath lab under local anesthesia. After angioplasty, the individual should follow a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle to prevent its recurrence and to prolong life.