The heart is the crucial organ to keeping us alive by beating 100,000 times a day and pumping up to five litres of blood throughout our body through a complex network of blood vessels that measure a whopping 96,560 kilometers!
It is no surprise, then, that coronary artery disease—resulting in blocked coronary arteries (the main blood vessels supplying the heart with a constant supply of blood)—is a dangerous condition; and the unblocking of these arteries are key to one’s health and sometimes even survival itself.
And, in modern interventional cardiology, a coronary angioplasty surgery is an effective method of widening obstructed coronary arteries when an urgent situation calls for it.
Angioplasty, also known as percutaneous coronary intervention, is a procedure that is done to open up clogged heart arteries. This restores blood flow to the heart muscles without the need for open-heart surgery. Usually, this is done in emergency situations such as a heart attack or if doctors recommend it to their patients who are suspected to have heart disease.
Angioplasty treatment uses a balloon that is attached to a catheter, which is inserted through a blood vessel and ultrasound-guided into the clogged coronary artery. Once the catheter is properly placed, the balloon will be inflated to help widen the blocked blood vessel and improve blood flow to the heart.
Today, Singapore angioplasty typically incorporates the use of a stent. This is a short, expandable mesh tube that is placed into the newly opened part of the artery, preventing it from closing or narrowing again.
If the flow of blood to the heart is obstructed due to a narrowed artery (caused by a buildup of cholesterol or plaque), it may result in chest pain, a warning sign to seek help immediately.
In serious cases, a blood clot may form or the obstructed blood flow may worsen until the artery is completely blocked, resulting in a heart attack.
In such cases, a coronary angioplasty may be used to widen blocked or narrowed coronary arteries, so that normal blood flow can be restored.
A coronary angiogram is a test used to determine if your coronary arteries are obstructed, where, and by how much. Knowing this will also allow your cardiologist to determine what kind of treatment you need:
What Happens During An Angiogram?
A coronary angioplasty opens up blocked or narrowed arteries and restores normal blood flow to the heart. It is not a major surgery and causes minimal discomfort and downtime.
Though the angioplasty procedure significantly improved the process of treating artery blockages with greatly reduced invasiveness (compared to open-heart bypass surgery) and its corresponding reduced discomfort and risks, it might not be the first line of treatment nor might it be suitable for all.
In cases where the narrowing is not severe, your cardiologist may recommend a change in lifestyle and diet first, to see if the condition improves. This may include:
Perhaps the most important thing to note is: no matter how effective an angioplasty is, it is not a permanent treatment for coronary artery disease!
If the patient does not adopt an active and healthy lifestyle after an angioplasty, or fails to take their prescribed medicines as instructed, plaque may start building up all over again, leading to the narrowing of the coronary arteries.
Hence, while the angioplasty may give patients a new lease in life, they must be sure to follow up regularly with their cardiologist, take their medicines as prescribed, and lead a healthy lifestyle to prevent the same condition from ever recurring.