Coronary Angioplasty


Coronary angioplasty is a coronary artery disease treatment used to open coronary arteries blocked by a buildup of plaque, or fatty material. Plaque in the arteries may develop in childhood and continue to thicken in the adult years. This thickening, called atherosclerosis, narrows the space through which blood can flow and decreases the amount of blood reaching the heart.

Coronary angioplasty, also known as percutaneous coronary intervention, uses several methods to permit more blood flow into the heart:

  • Balloon angioplasty – a balloon is inflated in the blocked artery to compress the plaque and increase blood flow. The balloon is then deflated and removed from the artery.
  • Coronary artery stent – a tiny coil is expanded inside the artery after balloon angioplasty to keep the artery open.
  • Bare metal stent – a tiny metal coil is placed and absorbed into the wall of the coronary artery over a period of time.
  • Drug-eluting stent – a bare metal stent covered with medication to prevent re-narrowing in the artery.
  • Atherectomy – the blocked part of the artery is cut away by a tiny device on the end of a catheter.

Since coronary angioplasty often greatly improves blood flow through the coronary arteries and the heart, it may help patients avoid the need for coronary artery bypass surgery, or CABG surgery, a much more invasive procedure.

Patients in need of coronary angioplasty and other artery disease treatment procedures will find expert and compassionate care at the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Learn more about coronary angioplasty at the Shapiro Center.

State-of-the-art coronary angioplasty

The Center's Cardiovascular Medicine division is equipped with robotics and sophisticated imaging equipment for innovative and interventional procedures. Coronary angioplasty and many other procedures are performed in a seamless, coordinated environment, allowing better collaboration between the team of specialists and staff. The Carl J. and Ruth Shapiro Cardiovascular Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital is one of the most advanced centers of its kind in New England. With state-of-the art technology and a robust research program, the Center provides comprehensive and innovative care for patients with coronary artery disease, including coronary angioplasty.

Alternatives to coronary angioplasty

In addition to coronary angioplasty, physicians may recommend a variety of other treatment methods, including:

  • Modifying the behaviors and conditions that increase risk factors, including smoking, poor dietary habits, and lack of exercise.
  • Medications such as antiplatelet medications (to decrease the ability of platelets in the blood to stick together and cause clots), anticoagulants or blood thinners, antihyperlipidemics to lower lipids (fats) in the blood, antihypertensives to lower blood pressure, and additional drugs to relieve angina and improve heart function.
  • Coronary disease surgery, including coronary artery bypass surgery, which routes blood around a blockage in the artery, and a number of other surgeries for patients with more complex artery disease.

Learn more about Coronary Angioplasty at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

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