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Angioplasty with a stent, also known as percutaneous coronary intervention, is a treatment designed to help blood flow through damaged arteries. Today, the experts at Commonwealth Vein Center in Richmond, VA discuss what exactly this treatment is, how it works, who makes a good candidate, and more.

What Is Angioplasty?

Angioplasty is a minimally invasive treatment designed to help blood flow through arteries that are not operating at maximum efficiency. This is achieved by inserting a balloon and stent via a catheter into the affected artery, widening it. While this treatment is usually performed as a life-saving measure after a heart attack, it can also treat heart disease before a coronary event occurs.

How to Prepare for Treatment

If you haven’t had a heart attack yet, you have time to prepare for treatment. If you’re experiencing persistent chest pain that can’t be controlled by medication or you’re at high risk of developing heart disease, come in for an initial evaluation. Dr. Samee will provide you with a comprehensive list of preparation instructions.

The most important thing you can do to prepare for treatment is to quit smoking if you smoke. Consuming tobacco products is one of the most damaging things you can do to your coronary health besides a drastically poor diet. Take any medications prescribed to you and stop taking any medications that can prevent clotting, such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and clopidogrel.

How It Works

This treatment works by widening the narrow or blocked artery using a very small balloon. To prevent the artery from collapsing in on the inserted balloon, a tiny wire-mesh cannula (stent) may be used. If we determine that a stent is necessary, it will be placed at the same time as your percutaneous coronary intervention.

How It Is Performed

To perform this treatment, triple board-certified Dr. Saquib Samee will make a tiny incision in your groin to access the affected artery. Then, he will insert a catheter through the incision to help guide him up your venous system to the targeted artery. Using a special X-ray known as fluoroscopy, he will view your arteries and pass a guidewire through the catheter.

Once the guidewire is placed appropriately, a small catheter is inserted up after the guidewire. This second catheter transports the balloon used for treatment. Dr. Samee will inflate the balloon when it reaches the blocked or narrow artery. The stent is inserted at the same time as the balloon to ensure the artery doesn’t collapse as the balloon is inflating. Once the balloon and stent are functioning appropriately, the catheter is removed.

What to Expect After Treatment

After treatment, you will be prescribed an anti-coagulant to help your artery adjust to the new stent. If you’re not receiving this treatment in response to a confirmed heart attack, you are free to return home. Once you get home, drink around three-quarters of a gallon of water daily and get plenty of rest. Exactly how much rest you need depends on how ill you were when you received treatment and how tired your body feels afterward.

While this treatment is used to address potentially life-threatening conditions, such as atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease, it’s important to focus on a healthy lifestyle once you have recovered from treatment completely. This means that you should stop engaging in activities that are bad for your heart, like smoking, and focusing on heart-healthy activities like regular exercise and eating healthy foods free of sugar and highly processed ingredients.

Who Is This Right For?

The ideal candidate for angioplasty is at high risk of heart conditions, such as atherosclerosis or heart disease. Unfortunately, it is usually a reactive treatment, performed after the first heart attack rather than a preventative treatment before a heart attack occurs. This is because heart attacks often come with little warning, especially when someone has never had one before.

If you suspect you had a heart attack, it’s important to act quickly. There are people who have a heart attack and have no idea for years until they get tested for something else. However, heart attacks can just as easily be lethal when left untreated. There’s no way to know whether a heart attack will do no more than increase your risk for another heart attack. When it comes to your heart health, play it safe and seek preventative treatment.

Who Is This Not Right For?

While this treatment helps people with coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis, uncontrollable chest pain, and other heart-related conditions, it’s not the appropriate solution in all cases. For instance, if the primary artery on the left side of the heart is blocked, coronary artery bypass is a better solution to address the blockage. Diabetes and multiple blockages are also signs that this treatment is not appropriate for your case.

Support Your Heart Health

Blocked arteries put you at risk for numerous medical conditions, including atherosclerosis, heart disease, and stroke. If your primary care physician has reason to believe that you have narrow or blocked arteries, do not wait to take action. You may need an -angioplasty to support your heart health and possibly save your life.

If you suspect you’ve had a heart attack, immediate action is even more important. When no action is taken after a heart attack, another one is likely to follow. Angioplasty with stent will open the blocked artery that caused the first one and mitigate the risk of reoccurrence.

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