What is Balloon Angioplasty ?

What is balloon angioplasty?

Balloon angioplasty, also called also called percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty, is a non-surgical procedure during which a specially designed catheter with a balloon is carefully advanced through the artery to the narrowing, then inflated to widen the vessel lumen and increase blood flow to the tissue. A stent is often placed during the procedure, to keep the artery open after the balloon is deflated and removed. This method of treatment can be used in coronary artery disease or peripheral artery disease. 

Firstly a special dye is injected into the artery to allow the doctor to view the stenosis on an X-ray monitor. The balloon catheter is inserted through a small puncture into an artery in the groin or in the wrist. Subsequently, the catheter with a deflated balloon at the end of it is advanced to the stenotic segment of the artery. Upon being sure of correct positioning the balloon is inflated and kept inflated for 3 minutes. Then the balloon is deflated and removed from your body. The pressure applied to the walls by the balloon pushes the arterosclerotic deposits, opens the narrowings and widens the vessel lumen, therefore facilitating blood flow. The latest balloon technology contain a Pacitaxel coating which is transfered to the arterial wall during the time the ballon remains inflated. This neoplastic drug prevents restenosis by inhibiting vessel cell reproduction, leading to longer patency rates.

What are the advantages of balloon angioplasty?

First of all, balloon angioplasty is a procedure performed using local anesthesia insteead of general anesthesia. This involves considerably fewer risks or complications and less discomfort for the patient. To perform local anessthesia, an anesthesiologist is not required therefore less medical staff is needed. Secondly, balloon angioplasty is a non-surgical procedure and as a result all risks and complications of open surgery, like pain, blood loss, wound infection or lung infection are avoided. Lastly, recovery times after balloon angioplasty are much shorter than its alternatives.

Where is this used?

Balloon angioplasty is mainly used to treat coronary artery disease and peripheral artery disease. In the case of coronary artery disease narrowing of coronary arteries leads to insufficient blood supply to heart muscle. This condition can cause chest pain, shortness of breath during exercise, and even heart attacks. The risk of coronary artery disease is increased by having a family history of coronary artery disease before age 50, older age, smoking tobacco, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, lack of exercise, and obesity. Early diagnosis and treatment is crucial to prevent chronic heart disease or death.              

Peripheral artery disease is also narrowing of the arteries but it happens in the peripheral arteries (meaning, not coronary). PAD most commonly affects arteries in the legs, resulting in a severe lower extremity pain called claudication. In advanced cases, these disease can lead to inability to walk or even limb amputation.


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