Angioplasty and stenting
During an angioplasty (AN-jee-o-plas-tee), your doctor inserts a tiny balloon in your narrowed artery through a catheter that’s placed in an artery, generally in your groin. Your doctor inflates the balloon to widen the artery, and then he or she may insert a small metal tube (stent) to keep the artery open. Some stents are bare metal, some are covered with a synthetic fabric, and others are coated with medications to help keep your artery open (drug-eluting stents).
Angioplasty and stenting involve some risks. These include a risk of blockages re-forming after a stent is implanted, a risk of a blood clot forming in the stent, as well as small risks of having a heart attack, stroke, or life-threatening bleeding during or after the procedure.
You should consider that even if you have a stent placed, you’ll likely need to take aspirin for the rest of your life. You may also need to take additional medications to prevent blood clots.
You’ll probably remain hospitalized for at least a day while your heart is monitored and your vital signs are checked frequently. You can generally return to work or your normal routine soon after angioplasty.
Many doctors consider angioplasty with stent placement to be a good angina treatment option for blocked arteries and chronic stable angina. Some reasons that it may be considered a good treatment option are that it’s less invasive than open-heart surgery and generally has good results.
If you have stable angina, you may be able to treat it with medications and lifestyle changes alone, and you may not need angioplasty with stenting. Several medications can improve angina symptoms, including:
Aspirin. Aspirin reduces the ability of your blood to clot, making it easier for blood to flow through narrowed heart arteries. Preventing blood clotting may reduce your risk of a heart attack.
Nitrates. Nitrates are often used to treat angina. Nitrates relax and widen your blood vessels, allowing more blood to flow to your heart muscle.
You might take a nitrate when you have angina-related chest discomfort, before doing something that usually triggers angina (such as physical exertion), or on a long-term preventive basis. The most common form of nitrate used to treat angina is sublingual nitroglycerin tablets, which you put under your tongue.
Beta blockers. Beta blockers work by blocking the effects of the hormone epinephrine, also known as adrenaline. As a result, your heart beats more slowly and with less force, reducing blood pressure and reducing the workload on your heart. Beta blockers also help blood vessels relax and open up to improve blood flow, which reduces or prevents angina.
Statins. Statins are drugs used to lower blood cholesterol. They work by blocking a substance your body needs to make cholesterol. They may also help your body reabsorb cholesterol that has accumulated in the buildup of fats (plaques) in your artery walls, helping prevent further blockage in your blood vessels.
Calcium channel blockers. Calcium channel blockers, also called calcium antagonists, relax and widen blood vessels by affecting the muscle cells in the arterial walls. This increases blood flow in your heart, reducing or preventing angina. Calcium channel blockers also slow your pulse and reduce the workload on your heart.
Ranolazine (Ranexa). Ranolazine, an anti-angina medication, may be prescribed with other angina medications, such as beta blockers. It can also be used as a substitute if you can’t take beta blockers.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. These drugs help relax blood vessels. ACE inhibitors prevent an enzyme in your body from producing angiotensin II, a substance in your body that affects your cardiovascular system in numerous ways, including narrowing your blood vessels. This narrowing can cause high blood pressure and force your heart to work harder. These medications might help people with other conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.