Angioplasty is a surgical procedure to open up clogged or narrowed arteries. Though considered safe, there are a few risks involved in this surgery which should be known to be able prepare oneself mentally.
There are several reasons why the arteries cease to function normally after a certain period of time. A condition known as atherosclerosis results due to the blockage of the arteries. Another condition called arteriosclerosis affects the flow of blood through the arteries due to loss of elasticity (mostly common in older people). Angioplasty is a type of heart surgery which is performed in order to improve the function of the arteries. Although it is considered a safe surgery, with millions of people undergoing it every year, there are a few risks involved.
There are basically two types of risks involved, acute and chronic. Acute are the ones which originate during the surgery or immediately after the surgery, while chronic are the post surgery risks which result in narrowing of the artery, rendering the angioplasty useless. Besides, they can also be classified according to the type of artery upon which angioplasty is performed.
In the Coronary Method
This is the most common of all angioplasty surgeries. A balloon catheter is placed in the artery to open it. The balloon is inflated so as to open the arteries to their limit. A drug eluting stent in the form of a wire mesh tube is then inserted through the inflated catheter, to prevent the artery from narrowing down again.
The possible factors involved are:
- Bleeding or clotting in the region of catheter insertion
- Damage to a nearby heart valve or blood vessel
- Heart attack
- Kidney failure, especially in people who already suffer from kidney diseases
- Allergic reaction to the material of stent
- Allergic reaction to the drug used in a drug eluting stent
- Cardiac arrhythmia, i.e., irregular heartbeats
- Blood clotting in the artery
- Clogging of the interior of the stent called in-stent restenosis
Balloon angioplasty is often the first choice for preventing a heart attack, as there are very few risks associated with it.
In the Carotid Method
Carotid angioplasty is the surgery performed to open up the carotid arteries. Carotid arteries are located on either side of the neck. The mode of surgery is similar to the one mentioned above. It uses a balloon catheter to inflate the artery, and then a stent to keep it open. The various risks are as follows:
- Blood clots at the catheter may travel all the way to brain and result in a stroke.
- Restenosis or re-narrowing of the arteries within months of performing surgery.
- Bleeding may occur at the site of catheter insertion
In the Renal Method
Renal artery is the major blood vessel which carries blood to the kidneys. Renal angioplasty is performed to improve the function of the renal arteries. The risks involved are:
- Bruising at the site where the needle is inserted.
- Infection at the site of insertion of the needle.
- The contrast medium may worsen the function of the kidneys on a temporary basis.
- Sometimes, the attempt to open the artery may lead to more blockage of the artery.
- In very rare cases, it may lead to bursting of the artery.
- Damage to other arteries
- Sometimes, your radiologist may find it difficult to get the catheter out of your arteries.
Although there are quite a few risks involved in an angioplasty, it is rare that any of these can turn into a fatal complication. Since angioplasty is considered as an effective way of avoiding a heart attack, it is definitely worth it.