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The purpose of balloon angioplasty involving vascular stenting is to remove the blockage from the artery and maintain it open so as to prevent further accumulation of plaque. During the procedure, a thin flexible plastic tube, medically known as catheter, with a deflated balloon attached to the tip is inserted through a blood vessel in your arm or groin area. The surgeon subsequently passes it through the blood vessel using fluoroscopy, an imaging technique which allows the permanent monitoring of the catheter’s location and movement inside the body, to reach the problematic coronary artery, where they will carefully inflate the balloon. When stenting is also part of the procedure, a stent – a small, expandable mesh tube – will cover the deflated balloon. As the balloon is being inflated and the stent expands with it, the plaque deposits slowly become compressed against the artery’s walls. Finally, the surgeon deflates the balloon and removes it from the artery, leaving only the stent in place, which will keep the blood vessel open from then on.
However, the carotid arteries are not the only blood vessels in the body which can undergo balloon angioplasty and vascular stenting. The procedure can be successfully performed to open the following blood vessels as well:
Also known as percutaneous coronary intervention, this minimally invasive non-surgical procedure is performed to treat coronary artery disease. With over 15 million people in the United States suffering from it, coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease at the moment, often developing as a consequence of atherosclerosis. This condition gradually reduces the amount of oxygenated blood which reaches the heart, as plaque – a waxy substance made of cholesterol, fat, calcium, and other blood components – accumulates on the walls of one or both coronary arteries. Since arteries become increasingly narrow, the heart will no longer receive oxygenated blood at a healthy pace, which may cause serious complications such as chest pain, shortness of breath, arrhythmia, as well as heart attack and heart failure.
Since angioplasty is a minimally invasive surgical procedure, the recovery time is short. The majority of patients are discharged from the hospital the following day and can safely resume their usual activities 2-3 days after surgery. Lifting heavy weights and engaging in strenuous exercise are strongly ill-advised within the next 2 weeks. Patients who underwent angioplasty are prescribed aspirin to prevent potential complications such as angina or heart attack, which they will have to take indefinitely. Because the metal in the stent may lead to the development of blood clots over time, those whose procedure involved vascular stenting will also receive a type of anti-platelet agent – most often clopidogrel – in addition to aspirin, which shall be taken for approximately one year.