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When coronary arteries are blocked or narrowed, a coronary angioplasty might be essential in order to guarantee the blood supply to the heart. This procedure is performed using a balloon to stretch open a narrowed or blocked artery. However, it could involve a stent (a short wire-mesh tube), which is left in place permanently to allow blood to flow more freely. This is considered as the most modern angioplasty procedure. As the blood flow through the coronary arteries improves considerably after this procedure, many people find their symptoms get significantly better and they’re able to do more than they could before the treatment. For patients who suffered from a heart attack, an angioplasty can increase the chances of surviving more than clot-busting medication (thrombolysis).
A coronary angioplasty is performed using local anesthetic, which means that the patient will be awake during the procedure. A thin flexible tube, (catheter), will be inserted into one of the arteries through an incision in the groin, wrist or arm and will be guided using a X-Ray video. When the catheter is in place, the thin wire is guided down the length of the blocked coronary artery, leaving a small balloon that will be inflated exactly in the right spot where the block is and then inflated to widen the artery. This will move the fat deposits against the artery wall, making the blood flow more freely when the deflated balloon is removed. If a stent is being used, this will be around the balloon before it's inserted. The stent will remain permanently in place after the balloon is deflated and removed during the surgery. To perform a coronary angioplasty usually takes between 30 minutes and two hours.