Balloon Angioplasty – Benefits and Risks

Balloon Angioplasty is a surgical procedure performed immediately after a heart attack to restore the flow of blood in the heart by removing the blockages from the coronary arteries. These blocked arteries are a cause of heart attack and thus, this course of treatment helps the person recover and rejuvenate heart health by opening the blood vessels and restoring the supply of blood to the heart. Given the increasing rate of heart attack today, awareness about its treatment is crucial.

Balloon Angioplasty also referred to as percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty or precutaneous coronary intervention – is the most commonly opted course of treatment where the doctor inserts a catheter mounted with a tiny balloon into the blocked artery through an incision in the arm or groin. The doctors then guide the catheter to the exact spot of blockage by using special dyes, X-rays, etc. and once it’s in the right position – the tiny balloon is inflated to remove the blockage from the artery and clear the passage to allow blood flow by pushing he plaque build up to the walls of the artery. Once the blood supply is regulated, the balloon is deflated and removed from the body. This procedure is often time followed by the placement of a stent – a stainless steel mesh – in the heart of the patient to ensure the arteries do not clog again in future. In fact, some stents (such as drug-eluting stents) are medically coated to keep the arteries from narrowing again.

Balloon Angioplasty is a highly effective surgical procedure and has very high success rates. If a patient receives this course of treatment in the first hours of the heart attack or immediately in crucial cases, then the surgical procedure can reduce the chances of heart failure and various other complications. In many cases, it is also effective in providing relief to symptoms of heart disease.

Some vital benefits of Balloon Angioplasty after a heart attack include:

  • Efficient method to restore quick blood flow to the heart
  • Immediately effective, hence minimizes any further damage to the heart muscles
  • Relieves chest pain
  • Prevents shortness of breath
  • Minimally invasive
  • Prevents the need of a more invasive surgery such as the open-heart bypass
  • Reduces symptoms of any other heart disease
  • Improves kidney functioning
  • Shorter recovery period
  • Less risky than a open-heart bypass surgery
  • Less precautions and easy restoration of health
  • Procedure involves usage of local anesthesia – less harmful/risky than general anesthesia
  • Lowers the risk of another heart attack
  • Increases chances of survival

In some cases, the doctors might also suggest the patient to take certain medications to minimize all risks of a possible heart attack. All of these benefits need to be combined with measurable changes in lifestyle such as maintenance of a healthy weight, quitting smoking, indulging in a healthy diet, taking up regular exercise, and taking less stress.

While Balloon Angioplasty has a host of benefits, all medical procedures involve a certain degree of risks which one must be aware of. Some of the risks involved in a Balloon Angioplasty are:

  • Allergic reaction to dye, anesthesia, stent, etc.
  • Bleeding, clotting or painful bruising at the insertion point
  • Blood clots or scar tissue in stent
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Anxiety
  • Damage to heart vessel or heart valve
  • Tear in the artery (artery dissection)
  • Hole in the artery (artery perforation)
  • Damage to kidney
  • Post-surgery infection or complications
  • Medication side-effects
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack

Additionally, in some cases, the procedure would need to be performed again because of formation of a scar tissue in the stent (restenosis) or build up of plaque in the artery causing blockage; though the risk of restenosis is higher when the doctor does not use a stent.

However, all risks involved vary as per personal circumstances. Most of these are easily manageable with proper care. That said, a Balloon Angioplasty has more chances of success when performed in any other situation rather than after a heart attack or emergency. More so, Balloon Angioplasty does not guarantee escape from future heart attacks but reduces the risk of one provided proper care, lifestyle changes, and medications are followed.

Post the surgical procedure, consult the doctor to know the precautions and ways to keep the heart healthy. Adopt healthy eating habits, well-balanced diet, refrain from preservatives, keep your blood pressure and cholesterol in check, exercise every day, meditate and reduce stress, and always take your medications as prescribed. A Balloon Angioplasty can be 100 percent successful if it is followed by disciplined and dedicated post surgery care and lifestyle amendments. However, one should weigh all benefits and risks before opting for a surgical procedure such as a Balloon Angioplasty.

However, in some cases where the main artery that supplies blood to the heart is narrow or the heart muscles are very weak or if there are multiple diseased blood vessels or the patient has multiple blockages and diabetes, then angioplasty may not be the best suited surgical procedure and the doctors might opt to do a more invasive bypass surgery.

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