If you are having a heart attack and receive angioplasty and stenting (also called percutaneous coronary intervention, or PCI) soon enough, it can stop the heart attack, possibly saving your life or preventing damage to your heart muscle. Angioplasty and stenting is performed by interventional cardiologists – heart doctors who specialize in using minimally invasive procedures, rather than surgery, to access clogged or blocked blood arteries and open them to restore blood flow to the heart.
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|Arteries opened with angioplasty can become blocked again. To reduce the risk, many angioplasties are accompanied or followed by the insertion of a stent -- a small stainless steel mesh tube that helps prop open the artery at the point where the blockage was opened. Watch this short animation to see how a stent is placed, thus helping to restore blood flow through a previously blocked artery.
When the heart arteries become narrowed or blocked over time from the build-up of fatty material (plaque), it can interfere with blood flow to the heart and cause a heart attack. If you have a heart attack, you will probably be treated with angioplasty and stenting because many studies have shown that prompt treatment with this procedure improves survival and reduces the amount of heart damage.
Heart Attack Treatment Has Come a Long Way
A patient who suffered a heart attack in the 1950s was typically treated with weeks of bed rest and pain medications. Survival rates were low. Now, approximately 96 of every 100 heart attack patients who receive treatment not only survive, but are usually released from the hospital and back to work within a week.
A number of innovations have made this dramatic progress possible. Angioplasty is one of these key innovations. Not so long ago, open-heart bypass surgery (CABG) was the only way doctors could restore blood flow to the heart. But advances in technology have led to less invasive approaches such as PCI. They are called “less invasive” because only a small incision is required to insert the catheter that opens the artery with a balloon-like mechanism and inserts the stent to hold the artery open.
Angioplasty & Stenting Are Standard Care for Heart Attacks
The quicker a patient receives angioplasty to restore blood flow to the heart, the better the chances for a good outcome. Research shows that when patients suffering major heart attacks undergo angioplasty within 90 minutes of their arrival at the hospital, they are much more likely to survive the event and avoid significant damage to their heart.
A Heart Attack Is an Emergency!
The most important thing to do if you think you or someone you are with is having a heart attack is to call 911. Heart attack symptoms often come on suddenly and last for more than a few minutes (even though they may come and go).
For many people, a heart attack is a terrible feeling that is different from how you’ve felt before. However, for some patients, more often women or people with diabetes, heart attack symptoms can be milder and more easily dismissed. This is a dangerous situation because, during a heart attack, the heart is not getting the oxygen it needs. This means that the heart muscle is being damaged, perhaps permanently.
This is why one of the most important things you can do for your health is to learn about the symptoms of a heart attack, so you know when to call 911. Click here to learn about the warning signs.
If you are ever in a situation where you are having symptoms of a heart attack and you call 911, it is important to tell the emergency responders that you think you are having a heart attack. This means telling the dispatcher who answers the phone and the emergency personnel who come to your aid. Click here to learn how to get the help you need for your heart.