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Reopening Clogged Arteries without Major Surgery

Healthy arteries have a smooth inner lining that allows blood to flow freely from the heart to the body. But over time, cholesterol and other fatty substances can build up in the wall of an artery, forming a plaque that interferes with the flow of blood. As the blood flow to the heart is decreased, the heart is starved for oxygen and chest pain can result. If the blood flow is cut off, the result is a heart attack. Angioplasty is a catheterization procedure that allows a cardiologist to reopen clogged arteries and improve symptoms associated with clogged arteries.

How Balloon Angioplasty Works

As with other catheterization procedures, a very thin catheter is inserted into an artery, usually through a small incision in the groin area, then threaded through the artery to the area where the blockage is located. At the tip of the catheter is a tiny, deflated balloon. After the balloon catheter is placed in the blocked area, the balloon is inflated, compressing the fatty deposits inside the blood vessel and widening the area to restore blood flow.

A stent holds the artery open

After the blockage is expanded with the balloon, usually a stent will be placed in the artery to hold the area open. A stent is a small wire mesh coil, something like a tiny spring, which expands when inserted in the artery to hold the formerly blocked area open. Once the stent is in place, the balloon is deflated and removed. Now blood can flow freely again through the artery.

Some stents are coated with medication that helps prevent more fatty plaque from reforming at the spot of the blockage. These are called drug-eluting stents.

Why it's best to have this procedure done at a comprehensive heart and vascular center like the one at Phoebe

Coronary angioplasty isn't considered surgery because it's minimally invasive - your body isn't cut open. But it's always best to have any catheterization procedure done at a medical center that also has full cardiovascular surgery facilities with experienced cardiac surgeons, such as Phoebe. As with any medical procedure, there is a risk of complications. Though rare, if any complication requires surgery, the region's most experienced heart and vascular surgery team is right here at Phoebe.

Schedule an appointment, call Phoebe Cardiology: 229-312-1022.