Coronary artery disease is the number one cause of death around the world and is a condition in which the arteries that supply blood to the heart become narrowed or blocked by a build-up of "plaque." Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol or other fatty deposits that accumulate on the inner wall of the artery. Over time, the plaque hardens and narrows the coronary arteries, limiting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle.
Angioplasty is the procedure most widely used for patients with cardiovascular disease. The procedure involves inserting a medical device, such as a balloon, into your heart to open the heart artery narrowed by plaque. If the artery requires a more permanent approach to keeping the vessel open, a stent (mesh tube) is implanted at the site of narrowing.
Stents are tiny expandable tubes of metal mesh used to open blocked arteries and restore blood flow to the heart. Stents are guided through the blood vessels of either the wrist or the groin with the use of guide wires. This minimally invasive technique allows stents to be transported to the site of narrowing in the artery. A small balloon is used to temporarily expand the width of the vessel. Once the vessel is widened, a stent can then be implanted, providing a permanent scaffolding to widen the area of the artery.
The hardening and narrowing of arteries takes many years and initially causes no symptoms. But when fatty deposits build up to an extent that the artery is significantly damaged, it can result in any of the following.
- Blood clots (thrombus)
- Stoken (incl ischemic or maemorrhagic stroke)
- Angina (chest pains because the heart lacks oxygen)
- Heart attack
- Reduced heart function (caused by damage to the heart muscle)
- Swelling (aneurysms) in parts of the aorta
- High blood pressure
- Leg pains from narrowed arteries in the lower limbs.