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What is Angioplasty Surgery?

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  • Written By: Jacquelyn Gilchrist
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2016
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2016
    Conjecture Corporation
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Angioplasty surgery is a procedure to open arteries that lead to the heart that have become narrowed and blocked due to the presence of a fatty substance. Blocked arteries that are not treated may lead to a stroke. During angioplasty surgery, the doctor will insert a special type of balloon into the artery and inflate it to widen the blood vessel. The balloon does not stay in the artery, however the surgeon may also insert a wire mesh tube called a stent, which will remain inside the artery to keep it open.

This procedure is not ideal for all patients. First, the doctor will try to treat the condition by prescribing medication and recommending lifestyle changes. Patients who do not attain sufficient results, or those who experience symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath, may consider an angioplasty. Those who have suffered a heart attack will also be more likely to consider surgery. Patients who have diabetes, multiple blockages, or weakened heart muscle may consider a coronary artery bypass surgery instead.

To prepare for an angioplasty surgery, patients may need to adjust their medication schedule in accordance with the doctor's orders. They should not consume food or liquids after midnight on the day before the procedure. Patients must also make arrangements for someone to drive them home from the hospital, usually on the day following the surgery.

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An angioplasty surgery is not usually performed under general anesthesia, so the patient will be awake throughout it. The patient will be given pain medication, a sedative, and a drug to prevent blood clots. After applying a topical anesthetic to the skin to numb the area, the surgeon will make an incision, usually in a leg or arm.

A very thin wire and a catheter is inserted into the incision and into the artery, which will be guided to the blockage near the heart. Dye is then injected into the catheter so that the doctor can closely examine the blockage with an imaging test. The special balloon, which is attached to the catheter, is then inflated to widen the artery. When a stent is being used, it will be inserted while the balloon is inflated. The surgeon will then deflate the balloon and remove it, as well as the catheter.

Patients can expect to remain in the hospital for at least one day following an angioplasty surgery. Upon returning home, a person in recovery should consume plenty of fluids and avoid strenuous activities. Most people may return to their normal schedules after about a week. They will likely be prescribed blood-thinning drugs and pain medication to relieve any discomfort.

Like all procedures, an angioplasty surgery carries some risk of complications. Patients should alert the surgeon if they feel faint or weak, or if they experience shortness of breath or chest pain. Swelling, bleeding, or discomfort at the incision site should also be reported immediately. A fever, a change in temperature or color at the incision site, or any drainage that appears may be signs of a possible infection or other complication.

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