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Renal angioplasty is a medical method to relieve the blockage of the renal artery. The renal artery is the main blood vessel which transports blood from the heart to the kidneys. These arteries branch from the main artery of the heart and connect to the kidney. Renal arteries take a large quantity of blood from the heart to the kidneys for filtration. When these arteries are blocked or narrowed due to multiple reasons, the blood flow and nutrients to the kidneys are restricted. This causes multiple health issues, including a condition known as renal artery stenosis.

What is renal artery stenosis?

Renal artery stenosis is a medical condition in which one or more of the renal arteries (that carry blood to the kidneys) are blocked or narrowed. This condition restricts the oxygen-rich blood from reaching the kidneys. Generally, the purpose of the kidneys is to filter the waste from the blood and remove excess fluids. When the blood flow to the kidneys is restricted or blocked, the kidneys are deprived of the oxygen-rich blood. Hence, they cannot function properly. Moreover, the reduced blood flow also injures the tissue of the kidney, thereby, raises the blood pressure of the body.

This medical condition can be treated by various procedures, including renal angioplasty and stents.

What is renal angioplasty?

Renal angioplasty is a minimally-invasive method to treat renal stenosis. In this method, the surgeon inserts a small, flexible tube known as a catheter into the compromised renal artery. The catheter is then threaded through the artery to reach the area of the blockage. This catheter is mounted with a small, high-quality camera on top to allow the surgeon to see inside and direct the tube to the exact area of blockage. The camera provides images on an X-ray monitor.

Once the blockage area is detected, a thin, tiny wire is passed through the narrowed segments of the artery. After this, a long, thin, flexible tube mounted with a tiny camera on its tip is threaded into the artery through the blockage. Once the tube reaches the position, the balloon is inflated to push the plaque – accumulation of fat in the artery – to the sidewalls. Thus, widening the artery and allowing the free flow of blood from the heart to the kidneys.

In most cases, the surgeon may place a stent – a wired-mesh tube – to prevent the renal artery or arteries from closing or narrowing again. Once the stent is placed, the surgeon removes the catheter. In this surgery, the patient is asked to keep the stomach empty at least for four hours before the surgery. Moreover, the procedure is performed while keeping the patient sedated.

The patient must disclose health details, allergies, reactions, on-going medications, etc. to ensure there are minimum or no complications during the surgery.

What happens after a renal angioplasty procedure?

Once the procedure is successful, the patient is shifted to a recovery room to monitor for any postoperative issues. However, in case there are no complications, the patient is discharged from the hospital within 12 to 24 hours post the surgery. However, the at-home recovery process takes time. The patient will not be able to resume normal activities for a few days to weeks, depending on the general health of the patient and the after-effects of the renal angioplasty.

Moreover, if the angioplasty was followed by the placement of a stent, the cardiologist will prescribe certain blood-thinning medications for a month or a year. During the recovery phase, the patient needs to take all recommended precautions and avoid physically strenuous activities such as weightlifting for a considerable amount of time. Also, the patient should indulge in a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, ensure a balanced physical activity, and avoid smoking and alcohol, etc. to achieve positive results.

What are the risks and complications involved?

Renal angioplasty is generally considered safe and has fewer complications. However, in rare cases, some complications can incur, such as:

  • Exposure to radiation can harm the body
  • Rare chances of developing cancer from radiation exposure
  • Infection at the incision site
  • Allergic reaction to anaesthesia
  • Allergic reaction to the dye used
  • The procedure may fail, causing worsening of the blockage
  • The procedure can create a blockage in other arteries
  • Wound infection
  • False aneurysm
  • Rare chances of a heart attack, stroke, etc.
  • Kidney failure risk
  • Chest problems

That said, all the risks depend on case-to-case. But generally, a renal angioplasty has no significant complications. But in cases, where a renal angioplasty fails to improve the condition, the surgeon can shift to normal surgery.

What are the benefits of a renal angioplasty?

Renal angioplasty is a method to treat patients suffering from renal stenosis. Some of the key benefits of this procedure include:

  • Quickly restores blood flow to the kidney
  • Minimizes damage to the kidney tissues
  • Relieve pain and discomfort
  • Promotes better filtration of fluid and waste
  • Prevents shortness of breath
  • Minimally-invasive and thus, eliminates the need for an open-bypass surgery
  • Reduces other related health issues
  • Improves kidney functioning
  • Faster recovery period
  • Less risky than an open-bypass surgery
  • Fewer safety measures
  • Easy recovery
  • Increases chances of survival

Overall, a renal angioplasty is a minimally invasive and safe method to treat renal stenosis in patients. However, the applicability and suitability of the procedure depends on case-to-case and is decided by the doctor.

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