If one is aware of the terms like angina and atherosclerosis, then the term angioplasty will surely not be new to them. For thousands of people leading an unhealthy and stressful lifestyle, risk of heart diseases is ever present and this surgical repair is what they have to resort to. However, in some cases, complications can arise as a result of this procedure and one should be aware of the same as well.
What Necessitates Angioplasty
Coronary arteries are the arteries which supply blood to the heart. These arteries become narrow because of the accumulation of fat and cholesterol. This build-up is called plaque. Coronary angioplasty is a medical procedure which is done to widen these blocked arteries, so that blood can flow normally into the heart and deliver oxygen. A person whose coronary arteries are blocked, often feels chest pain as a result of not getting enough blood and oxygen. This is known as angina. The symptoms of angina are - tightness or pain in the chest behind the sternum, which spreads to the left shoulder, arms, neck, and throat. The procedure is done to treat this condition. Furthermore, It is also done in the case of heart attacks, when arteries get completely blocked.
A long, narrow tube called catheter is inserted through the thigh or the arm. This catheter is directed towards the blocked artery. Then a tiny balloon attached to the tip of the catheter, is positioned and inflated with air. This inflated balloon exerts pressure on the surrounding plaque which ultimately gets flattened, and the artery becomes wide again. Often a tiny wire tube called stent is left inside the artery to hold it open. This procedure then normalizes the blood flow through the arteries, into the heart.
The complications of this procedure are more likely observed in people above 75 years, and in those affected by diabetes or kidney diseases. They are:
- An artery may abruptly close during the procedure, leading to a heart attack. This kind of abrupt vessel closure or occlusion, generally occurs within 24 hours of the procedure. Sometimes, a blood clot may get dislodged by the tip of the catheter during the procedure and completely block the artery, again leading to heart attack. Treatment includes medication to dissolve the clots. Emergency bypass surgery may also be needed to remedy this.
- Restenosis is one of the common complications after the procedure. It refers to the gradual re-narrowing of the arteries, some months after the procedure. It is characterized by a return of chest pain. Restenosis may be a result of blood clots occurring at the site of the treatment. To prevent this, anti-clotting drugs, aspirin or heparin are used before and after the procedure. Coronary stents coated with anti-clotting drugs are being used to prevent the immediate formation of blood clots. Conditions that are known to increase this risk are angina, diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney diseases.
- These risks can also arise in the form of bleeding, bruising or pain in the area, where the catheters are inserted and removed. There is a risk of infection at the puncture site. Some people might develop an allergic reaction to the dye used in the angiogram. Reactions can be in the form of vomiting, asthma, skin rashes, low blood pressure, and disturbances in heartbeat known as cardiac arrhythmia.
- Kidney cells might get damaged during an angiogram because of the special radio-opaque dye, which is injected into the arteries to make them visible through X-ray. This is why the physician checks the renal functions before going ahead with the angiogram. Intravenous fluids and medications can be given before and after the procedure to try to reduce this risk. These can dilute the dye, as it passes through the kidneys.
- Damage to the blood vessels may occur, if the artery is already badly-diseased. The catheter may make a hole in the blood vessel or scratch and strip the inner lining. These can be rectified by the radiologist during or after the treatment.
These complications may differ from person to person, and all of them can be rectified. Severe complications like myocardial infarction, kidney problems, and stroke, fall in the rarest of the rare categories and death rate of people undergoing this procedure is just 0.1%. However, in all the surgeries and operations, the element of risk is always there, and this procedure is no exception. Regular exercise, nutritious diet, and a healthy lifestyle is what one needs to adopt, so that heart diseases would never plague one and thus, one would not have to worry about any repair procedures and their complications.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.