Coronary Angioplasty

General Information

Why do people need coronary angioplasty and stents?

You might need coronary angioplasty:

  • to improve blood flow to your heart if one or more of your arteries are too narrow because of significant plaque build-up
  • if you have angina, because it can improve the flow of blood to your heart muscle by opening narrowed arteries
  • if you have a heart attack, because it can help to quickly restore the flow of blood and minimise damage to your heart by opening narrowed arteries.

Other treatments for coronary heart disease include:

medicine, which:

  • can make your blood less likely to clot
  • slow your heart rate
  • make your blood vessels wider
  • lower your blood pressure
  • reduce your risk of having a heart attack and stroke

bypass surgery, which:

  • involves grafting a blood vessel from your chest, leg or forearm to your coronary artery to redirect blood flow around the most narrowed part of this artery
  • lets your blood 'detour' past the narrowing to reach your heart muscle.

Your cardiologist will look at your symptoms and the results of your angiography test to help them to decide if angioplasty is suitable for you.

Types of stents

Currently, there are 2 main types of stents.

Bare-metal stents (BMS) were once the commonest and only type of stent available. With the advent of the newer drug-coated stents, their use has reduced to patients who are at the lowest risk of restenosis occurring.

Drug-eluting stents (DES) are coated with a special medicine that is slowly released into your artery wall. This medicine stops tissue growing too much around the stent within your coronary artery. If the tissue grows too much it can make your artery narrow again (restenosis). Drug-eluting stents are therefore used to minimise the chance of restenosis in patients that are considered to be at higher risk for this. Hence, DES are used in smaller width arteries, bifurcating arteries, long narrowings, in diabetic patients, and to actually treat restenosis.

Will angioplasty cure my angina? 

Angioplasty is a very localised treatment, not a cure, for coronary arterial narrowings. It is not uncommon for such narrowings to grow immediately next to regions of the artery that have already been treated with angioplasty and stents.

For this reason, the best way to reduce your risk of more heart problems is to take your medicines as prescribed by your doctor and reduce or remove your 'risk factors' (things that increase your chance of developing coronary heart disease).

Other than taking your medicines as prescribed, the most important things that you can do are:

  • refrain from smoking
  • enjoy healthy eating
  • be physically active
  • control your blood pressure, and lower your cholesterol
  • achieve and maintain a healthy body weight
  • maintain your psychological and social health.

People with diabetes should aim to maintain their blood glucose levels within the normal non-diabetic range. 

  • Professor Sanders says...

    Atrial fibrillation is a consequence of several reversible risk factors - high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, sleep apnoea, and excessive alcohol. Your management of atrial fibrillation must include strict control of these risk factors.