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When you have a blocked or narrowing in a coronary artery, a procedure called Percutaneous Trans-Luminal Coronary Angioplasty (PTCA) can open the artery or arteries so that blood can flow normally. A diagnosis of certain conditions for many coronary artery, heart valve and congenital heart conditions can also be made at the same time as the Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI).

These blockages occur due to fatty build-up in the arteries – diminishing your blood flow. This form of coronary artery disease (CAD) is called atherosclerosis can cause chest pain (angina), shortness of breath, dizziness, fatigue and nausea, pain in your neck or arm, an irregular or fast heartbeat and result in a heart attack if left untreated.

At WakeMed, we offer a minimally invasive PTCA procedure to clear arteries and restore normal blood flow. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia and uses ultrasound to help the cardiologist view the site of the blocked artery. An intravenous (IV) line will be inserted in your arm and you will be given a sedating medication. A small incision is made under the skin and a balloon-tipped catheter is run to the site of the blockage. Once at the site of the narrowing in the artery, the cardiologist will inflate and deflate the balloon several times to compress the plaque and open the artery.

Sometimes the inflation of the balloon is enough to open the artery. Sometimes, angioplasty is combined with stent placement. Stents are thin metal tubes that are deployed into the artery to help keep the blood flowing freely. Some stents are coated with medication to help keep your artery open (drug-eluting stents), while others are not (bare-metal stents). Angioplasty can be a planned procedure and it is also often done to help open blocked arteries in emergency situations like a heart attack. Angioplasty can often immediately open the blocked artery, restoring blood flow and minimizing the damage to your heart muscle.

How to prepare for a PTCA 

Do not eat or drink after midnight on the evening before the procedure. Take your regular medications, but only have a small amount of water to take pills. If you take blood thinners or have diabetes, talk with your doctor about any special instructions.

Make sure that you bring a driver with you because you cannot drive home. You will be able to resume driving and normal activities on the day after the PTCA.

Your doctor will talk with you about the results of the PTCA and let you know how you can continue to care for your heart health. Lifestyle modifications – such as exercise, eating a healthy, lower fat diet and stop smoking – will help prevent plaque or build-up from recurring in your arteries.