When the arteries leading to the heart become blocked with cholesterol or other substances, blood flow to the heart is limited – often resulting in chest pain and even a heart attack. This blockage often can be reduced using one of the following non-surgical techniques:
Balloon angioplasty uses a long, thin flexible tube called a catheter to reach the affected areas of the heart. Once in place, a balloon attached to the end of the catheter is inflated, flattening the blockage against the artery wall and improving blood flow. The balloon is then deflated and removed. Patients are lightly sedated during the procedure and most are discharged from the hospital within 24 hours or less.
Coronary stenting involves the use of a small, mesh-like tube to open blockages in the arteries and prevent them from narrowing again. The stent is placed on a balloon-tipped catheter and inserted into the body – usually through the groin – and moved until it reaches the affected area of the heart. When the balloon is inflated the stent locks into place and forms a scaffold to prop the artery open. This allows improved blood flow to and from the heart. Within a few weeks of the procedure, the inside lining of the artery grows over the stent’s metal surface. Stents are sometimes coated with a medication that slowly releases into the bloodstream to help prevent the vessel from reclosing.