Heart attacks have been a major cause of human mortality since ages. Most of the deaths occur due to improper treatment of the patient. That said, procedures such as angioplasty and stenting have proven very useful in treating patients after a heart attack or in other conditions that require restoring blood flow to the heart muscle.
Also referred to as balloon angioplasty or coronary angioplasty, this procedure involves restoring the blood flow to the heart after a heart attack or otherwise in case of blockages. An angioplasty helps to remove the blockage in the artery caused due to build-up of plaque. This minimally-invasive technique eliminated the blockage, widens the artery for smooth flow of blood, to ensure good heart health.
An angioplasty has recently gained a lot of popularity because it is a safer procedure than open-heart surgery. In this method, the surgeon makes in an incision in the arm or the groin of the patient and then inserts a thin, fine tube called a catheter mounted with a tiny balloon into the blocked artery. The catheter is guided to the exact place of the blockage through the use of special dyes and X-ray images. After the catheter is in the right place, the tiny balloon mounted on top is inflated. This pushes the plaque that caused blockage to the sides, thus, clearing the artery and allowing the blood to flow to the heart muscle in full. After the blockage is removed and the blood flow is restored, the surgeon deflates the balloon, removes it from the patient’s body and then closes the incision.
In some cases, after angioplasty, the patient still requires a definitive treatment to stop the recurrence of the blockage. Hence, the surgeon places a stainless steel mesh, called a stent in the blocked artery to keep it from closing again. These stents are put on top of the balloon on the catheter. When the catheter opens the balloon inside the heart, the stent also opens up and reinforces the walls of the artery. This helps to avoid blockage and thus, improve heart health for a long-term. Some patients are given medically-coated stents to avoid narrowing of arteries.
Life after Angioplasty and Stent Placement
Both angioplasty and stent placement are very critical surgical procedures to ensure good heart health and save the lives of patients after a heart attack. Moreover, since this is a minimally-invasive procedure, the benefits outweigh the risks. However, the recovery can take a few weeks and must be done with consultation from the doctor. Moreover, to ensure lifelong heart health, the patient will need regular checkups, a review of the stents timely, and certain strict lifestyle amendments, such as:
No Smoking: After angioplasty or stenting, the patient is not allowed to smoke tobacco or related products. These products damage the lining of the arteries, thus, triggering the creation of fat, known as plaque. This further leads to narrowing and then blocking of arteries. However, even non-smokers should be very cautious since passive smoking can also have similar effects on heart health and increase the risks of blockages in arteries.
Regular Medications: In all cases, post an angioplasty or stent placement, the doctor will recommend certain medications to the patient. The patient must ensure to take all medicines timely to enhance the recovery of the heart, allowing it to gain strength. Some medications that are usually prescribed for heart patients suffering from blockages include:
- Blood thinners to restore blood flow
- Thrombolytics to dissolve clots
- Nitroglycerin to widen blood vessels
- Antiplatelet to prevent new clots
- Pain killers to ease discomfort and pain
Healthy Diet: After angioplasty and stent placement, the patient will need to adopt a healthy diet to avoid recurrence of the problem. All kinds of unhealthy food items such as carbonated drinks, packaged food and other items high in high in cholesterol, sodium, trans fat, etc. should be avoided. The patient should include more green leafy vegetables, whole grains, seeds, low-fat dairy, fibre, etc. in the diet.
Easy Physical Activity: A major cause of artery blockage is physical inactivity. Hence, to ensure that the blockage or narrowing of the artery does not happen again, the patient must adopt a balanced physical activity regime. However, no strenuous workouts such as weight lifting, bodybuilding, etc. should be done without first consulting the doctor. Generally, it is advisable to follow low-to-moderate physical activities such as walk, jogging, etc. No item weighing more than 10 pounds should be picked up by the patient up until six weeks of angioplasty and stent placement. Also, sexual activity should be resumed only after speaking to the doctor.
Healthy Weight: After the surgery, weight management for the patient might become a critical issue. Unhealthy weight increases or obesity can further increase the risk of heart problems. Hence, the patient must ensure to maintain a healthy weight after the surgery. Soft, supervised and balanced physical exercise along with healthy eating should be adapted to ensure good heart health overall.
Limited Alcohol Intake: Alcohol is limited and in most cases is restricted for patients recovering after stent placement or angioplasty. However, in cases where the alcohol intake is only minimized, a patient must set strict limits on the quantity and frequency of drinking. Excessive consumption of alcohol increases the risk of high blood pressure, obesity, cardiomyopathy, stroke, etc.
Follow-up tests: A patient also needs to get more attentive, alert and take necessary precautions to ensure the problem does not occur again. Regular heart check-ups must be done to keep a check on blood glucose levels, cholesterol levels, etc.
Overall, angioplasty and stent placement can provide effective results for a lifetime, provided appropriate care and precautions are taken to ensure good heart health.