WHAT IS AN ANGIOPLASTY?
Angioplasty is a type of procedure that specialized cardiologists use to unblock cardiac vessels, that are called coronary arteries.
Genetic factors, high blood pressure, diabetes, other chronic diseases and lifestyle can predispose you to build atherosclerotic plaque (deposit of cholesterol) in your vessel. Sometimes these plaques are large enough to obstruct the flow. In this case, very often, the patient develops chest pain. During the angioplasty procedure, a catheter is inserted in an artery in your wrist (85% of the times) or groin and advanced to your heart. A thin wire is used as guide to advance a small balloon that is inflated at the level of the obstruction, so to open up the artery. Usually, this procedure is completed by positioning a stent (in a similar fashion). A stent is a metallic scaffold that maintains the artery open virtually forever.
WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT AFTER ANGIOPLASTY?
You should expect a diminishing of symptoms of chest pain or shortness of breath. You may find that you have more energy and that you can do more without getting tired as quickly. From a preventive perspective, you should expect to take some medication regularly. In particular, for at least one year, you should take 2 anti-platelet medication (commonly known, somehow incorrectly, blood thinner) to maintain the stent open. This medication might increase the risk of bleeding and for this reason before an angioplasty procedure you should notify your doctor about previous bleeding problem or a planned surgery. Also, you should continue or begin a cardiac diet that is low in salt, fat and sugar. You should also expect that the doctors would instruct you to exercise more often. Exercise in fact will help to strengthen your heart muscle and increase your endurance. This is a slow process, so expect your exercise routine to increase slowly.
WILL I BE SEDATED FOR ANGIOPLASTY?
Yes, but not fully. Patients who undergo angioplasty are given conscious sedation, which helps them to relax and removes all of the pain. You will still be able to follow vocal commands, but you may seem as though you are lightly napping.
IS ANGIOPLASTY AN OUTPATIENT PROCEDURE?
Under most conditions, angioplasty is an outpatient (day-hospital) procedure. In cases where the patient is medically fragile, angioplasty may be an inpatient procedure.
You will be instructed not to eat after dinner the night before and not to drive the day of the procedure (due to the sedation medication).
WHEN CAN I GO BACK TO WORK?
Generally, we suggest 72 hours off work, avoiding heavy lifting.
How will I know if the angioplasty was successful?
The success of the procedure is seen once the final images are taken. After that, the resolution of symptoms and future no invasive testing will monitor the durability of the results.