Angioplasty is a medical procedure that is used to treat patients with blocked or clogged blood vessels (the coronary arteries) supplying the heart. It makes use of a stent or, in other words, a cylindrical mesh with a lumen in the middle, to keep the blocked lumen of the blood vessel patent and therefore allow adequate blood to flow through to the heart musculature.
In the past decade, the popularity of the angioplasty procedure has grown enormously and it has replaced the need to perform by-pass surgeries for most instances of coronary artery blockage. As it avoids the need for major surgery, the safety record of the procedure is highly appreciable while it improves the time spent in recovery to almost negligible levels.
At the same time, the angioplasty procedure is done without a surgical incision and without the need for external machinery to maintain the blood circulation, as in the case of by-pass surgeries. Patients can be discharged within several days and would also be able to engage in their day to day activities early after surgery.
Although the procedure is rather simple, the effectiveness it brings could not be considered less in comparison to an open heart surgery. However, there are downsides of angioplasty procedures which do not warrant it to be the obvious option. One of the major setbacks of this procedure is the re-stenosis that may occur within these stents a few years after placement. The duration before re-stenosis could vary from one patient to another although the chances are extremely high that it will happen. At the same time, it should also be noted that most stents last for a considerable number of years as well.
A new development in the field of angioplasty is the use of drug eluting stents. These stents will be able to secrete drugs directly into the blood vessel lumen and into the vessel wall in contact with the stent. These drugs are able to prevent clot formation and therefore a re-stenosis of the inserted stent. Thus, it is possible for these drug-eluting stents to last longer than the bare metal stents, even though their maximum lifetime remains debatable.
Another instance where the use of angioplasty remains debatable is when there are multiple vessel blockages. In such instances, the recommendations are most likely to be for open heart surgery although instances where multiple stent insertion could be seen practiced widely in medicine. Although these techniques alleviate the life threatening nature of the heart condition, its long-term viability remains obscured.
When looking at all these facts, it is apparent that while angioplasty remains popular and effective in some instances, its use is debatable in others. With the advent of drug-eluting stents, the downside of re-stenosis has been dealt with to some extent although the problem has not been negated fully.