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Coronary Angioplasty and Stenting

Coronary artery disease is the narrowing or obstruction of the vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart muscle. This narrowing is caused by fatty deposits (plaque) on the walls of the arteries.

These fatty deposits gradually build up and can cause a marked reduction of blood and oxygen to the heart. If the blood flow is significantly reduced, some form of medical treatment becomes necessary. 

One of the most common non-surgical treatments for opening obstructed coronary arteries is Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty (PTCA). The name itself says a lot about the procedure:

  • Percutaneous : means access to the blood vessel is made through the skin
  • Transluminal : means the procedure is performed within the blood vessel
  • Coronary : specifies that the coronary artery is being treated
  • Angioplasty : means "to reshape" the blood vessel (with balloon inflation)

Also referred to as "balloon treatment" because special balloons are used to open up obstructed arteries. This procedure sometimes also involves the use of devices known as "stents" to help keep the arteries open.

Step by step PTCA Procedure:
Pre-Admission and Evaluation

You will not be permitted any food or beverages for four hours prior to the procedure to prevent nausea during the procedure. If you are a diabetic, you will be given special instructions. Your groin area will be washed and shaved in preparation for the PTCA.

Angioplasty Procedure
The length of the procedure depends on the complexity of each individual's situation, but in general, the duration is 1-2 hours.

An intravenous line will be started in your arm. You will receive various medications in the angioplasty laboratory though this line. To help you relax, you will be given medication prior to leaving for the lab. You will remain awake, but slightly drowsy.

You will be placed on an x-ray table upon your arrival in the lab. It is the same type of room in which you had your Coronary Angiogram. All personnel in the lab will be wearing surgical attire. You will be covered by sterile sheets, and so will some of the equipment. Your groin or arm will be cleaned with an antiseptic (might be cold) and then numbed with a local anaesthetic. You will feel the sting of the needle, but then your groin or arm will feel quite numb. Heart monitoring equipment will be placed on your arms and legs, and you may be given oxygen to breathe. You will be given certain medications through the intravenous line, and periodically medication will be given to relax you and decrease any restlessness. Remember, you must still be able to talk and follow directions.

The angioplasty catheter (balloon-tipped) is inserted at the numb area, and advanced to your heart, using x-ray guidance. When the balloon is inflated at the point of the blockage, you may feel chest pressure, or discomfort, and this is normal. It will subside when the balloon is deflated. You may also feel your heart thump or skip, feel flushed, or have a headache. All these sensations are normal. Always, however, let your doctor know exactly how you feel during the entire procedure. You will be asked at times to hold your breath for a few seconds. You may also be asked to cough. Try your best to cough forcefully, as you are instructed.

At the end of the procedure, a closure device may be used (angioseal or perclose). This will enable you to get up sooner.

After the procedure, you will be moved to a recovery area for a short time, and then taken to your room where your heart can be monitored. Nurses will closely monitor your vital signs and general well being. They will also frequently check the groin area and dressing. A small, flexible catheter is sometimes left in the groin for 4-24 hours after the procedure. This allows quick access for a catheter should the need arise. Because of the catheter, you will be required to remain in bed and keep your leg immobilized.

You will be able to eat as soon as you wish after the procedure.

The catheter will be removed and firm pressure may be applied for about 20 minutes. Then a pressure bandage is applied and a small sandbag placed over it. This is to ensure that the artery does not bleed. Pain medication is available to you every few hours after the procedure. Please let your nurse know of any pain or discomfort you may feel at any time. The rest of the day is basically for rest, recuperation, and a gradual return to your activities.

Your doctor will see you the morning of discharge. Your doctor's nurse will go over medications, activities, and follow-up care. You will receive prescriptions for medicines you will need.