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What to Expect After Balloon Angioplasty and Stenting

What to Expect After Balloon Angioplasty and Stenting

Atherosclerosis is a common circulatory system problem that develops when a sticky plaque made of cholesterol, fat, blood cells, proteins, and calcium builds up on inner artery walls. It develops slowly and without symptoms, so you probably won’t know if you have it unless you get a blood test or imaging scan.

When the plaque builds up, the arteries narrow, making it harder for the heart to pump blood and reducing the supply of oxygen and nutrients to tissues throughout the body. Atherosclerosis is linked to serious diseases such as heart attack and stroke.

About half of Americans age 45-84 have atherosclerosis and don’t know it.

At Cardiovascular Institute of America, our expert team of board-certified interventional cardiologists, led by Muthu Velusamy, MD, FACC, ABVM, diagnose and treat all manner of cardiovascular problems, including atherosclerosis. For patients who have been diagnosed to have underlying plaque buildup and might be at a higher risk for cardiac or vascular event, they perform balloon angioplasty and stenting, or percutaneous coronary intervention.

Coronary angioplasty opens up a blocked artery and improves blood flow, aiding the heart’s function. Here’s what you should know about the procedure and what you can expect in the days and weeks following it.

What is coronary artery disease (CAD)?

CAD is the most common heart-related disease in the United States. It occurs because of atherosclerosis in the arteries serving the heart.

While CAD initially produces no symptoms, when the arteries narrow too much from plaque, it may lead to angina, or chest pain and discomfort, the most common symptom. Narrowed arteries cause pain because they block blood flow to your heart muscle.

For some people, the first clue they have CAD is a heart attack, which causes:

Over time, CAD weakens the heart muscle, potentially leading to heart failure, where the heart can’t pump blood the way it should.

Risks for CAD include being overweight, being physically inactive, eating a poor diet, and smoking tobacco. A family history of heart disease also increases your risk for CAD, especially if anyone developed it at an early age (50 or younger).

What is balloon angioplasty and stenting?

Angioplasty is a minimally invasive procedure that removes the plaque buildup and creates  more space inside an artery for the blood to flow through. Your cardiologist can perform it on any blocked blood vessel in the body.

Through a small incision in your wrist or groin, your doctor threads a catheter through your blood vessels to access your narrowed or blocked coronary artery. When they reach the problem area, they insert a wire and another catheter, this one with a very small balloon at the end of it.

At the treatment site, they inflate the balloon, which pushes the plaque to the sides of the artery wall, clearing the way for blood to get through. Once dilated, the doctor places a stent, a small hollow scaffold made of metal. It keeps the artery open after the doctor deflates and removes the balloon.

The stent, which the doctor locks into position after placement in the artery, remains inside the artery to continue to keep the blood flowing. Many stents are coated with a drug that helps prevent the artery from narrowing again.

Care after stenting

You stay at the hospital for several hours or even overnight for monitoring and to recover from percutaneous coronary intervention, and you need someone to drive you home. Dr. Velusamy/hospital staff  gives you complete aftercare instructions, including what medicines to take and how active you can be in the following days and weeks.

What you need most is to rest and drink plenty of fluids. Don’t exert yourself in any way for the next 24 hours. It’s possible that your doctor will prescribe a blood thinner to help prevent clots from forming, and you need to take these exactly as directed, with no missed doses.

You should be able to start driving and head back to work about a week after your coronary angioplasty. The time varies depending on where you had the angioplasty on your body, so check with Dr. Velusamy if you’re not sure.

If you’ve had a heart attack, your doctor may want you to participate in cardiac rehab. Make sure to discuss this at your follow-up appointment. If you know you have atherosclerosis, or if you have any of the risk factors for CAD, visit Cardiovascular Institute of America for an evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment. To get started, call the office in Tampa or Lutz, Florida, or book an appointment online today.

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