Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier
WebMD

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine
WebMD

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion
    WebMD

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community
    WebMD

    Community

    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Heart Disease Health Center

Select An Article

Heart Disease Treatment With Angioplasty and Stents

Font Size
A
A
A

For certain people, heart disease treatment can be achieved without surgery. Angioplasty is a non-surgical procedure that can be used to open blocked heartarteries. Stent placement is another option that can be done during angioplasty.

The procedure is performed in the cardiac catheterization laboratory (or cath lab) by a specialized cardiologist and a team of cardiovascular nurses and technicians.

Recommended Related to Heart Disease

My WebMD: Living with Marfan Syndrome

I've always known I wanted to have children, but my husband, Mark, and I did a lot of homework before we decided to try to get pregnant. I have Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the body's connective tissue. The biggest risk is an enlarged aorta (the major artery taking blood away from the heart). This can lead to an aneurysm (a bulge) or a dissection (a tear) in that artery. To protect their hearts, people with Marfan syndrome must limit contact sports and strenuous activity, as...

Read the My WebMD: Living with Marfan Syndrome article > >

What Happens During Angioplasty?

First, a cardiac catheterization is performed as part of angioplasty. You will receive medication for relaxation, and then the doctor will numb the site where the catheter will be inserted with local anesthesia.

Next, a sheath (a thin plastic tube) is inserted into an artery -- usually in your groin, but sometimes in the arm. A long, narrow, hollow tube, called a catheter, is passed through the sheath and guided up the blood vessel to the arteries surrounding the heart.

A small amount of contrast material is injected through the catheter and is photographed with an X-ray as it moves through the heart's chambers, valves, and major vessels. From the digital pictures of the contrast material, the doctors can tell whether the coronary arteries are narrowed and whether the heart valves are working correctly.

If the decision is made to perform angioplasty, the doctor will move the catheter into the artery with the blockage. He or she will then perform one of the interventional procedures described below.

The procedure usually lasts about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours, but the preparation and recovery time add several hours. You may stay in the hospital overnight to be observed by the medical staff.

What Types of Interventional Procedures Are Used in Angioplasty?

There are several types of interventional procedures which your doctor may use when performing angioplasty. They include:

  • Balloon angioplasty. During this procedure, a specially designed catheter with a small balloon tip is guided to the point of narrowing in the artery. Once in place, the balloon is inflated to compress plaque against the artery wall and stretch the artery open to increase blood flow to the heart.
  • Stent. A stent is a small metal mesh tube that acts as a scaffold to provide support inside your coronary artery. A balloon catheter, placed over a guide wire, is used to insert the stent into the narrowed coronary artery. Once in place, the balloon tip is inflated and the stent expands to the size of the artery and holds it open. The balloon is then deflated and removed while the stent stays in place permanently. Over a several-week period, your artery heals around the stent. Stents are commonly placed during interventional procedures such as angioplasty to help keep the coronary artery open. Some stents contain medicine and are designed to reduce the risk of reblockage (restenosis). The doctor will determine if this type of stent is appropriate for your type of blockage.
  • Rotablation. A special catheter, with an acorn-shaped, diamond-coated tip, is guided to the point of narrowing in your coronary artery. The tip spins around at a high speed and grinds away the plaque on your artery walls. The microscopic particles are washed away in your blood stream and filtered out by your liver and spleen. This process is repeated as needed to allow for better blood flow. This procedure is rarely used today because balloon angioplasty and stenting have much better results and are technically easier for the cardiologist to perform.
  • Atherectomy. The catheter used in this procedure has a hollow cylinder on the tip with an open window on one side and a balloon on the other. When the catheter is inserted into the narrowed artery, the balloon is inflated, pushing the window against the plaque. A blade (cutter) within the cylinder rotates and shaves off any plaque that protruded into the window. The shavings are caught in a chamber within the catheter and removed. This process is repeated as needed to allow for better blood flow. Like rotablation, this procedure is rarely used today.
  • Cutting Balloon. The cutting balloon catheter has a special balloon tip with small blades. When the balloon is inflated, the blades are activated. The small blades score the plaque, then the balloon compresses the plaque against the artery wall.

1 | 2 | 3
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

x-ray of human heart
A visual guide.
atrial fibrillation
Symptoms and causes.
 
heart rate graph
10 things to never do.
heart rate
Get the facts.
 
empty football helmet
Article
red wine
Video
 
eating blueberries
Article
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Slideshow
 
Inside A Heart Attack
SLIDESHOW
Omega 3 Sources
SLIDESHOW
 
Salt Shockers
SLIDESHOW
lowering blood pressure
SLIDESHOW