Hardening of the arteries that causes narrowing is usually the result of a build up over a long period of time of fatty deposits, mainly consisting of cholesterol. With time bits of calcium (bone), old blood and other material collect within these areas of narrowing. The appearance of the artery, once it has undergone these changes, is rather like that of a rusty pipe. Unlike a water pipe however, the artery is an elastic pipe and does actually still stretch. Because of this ability of the artery to stretch, balloon dilatation (balloon angioplasty) is used as a means of treating the problem.
Balloon angioplasty is usually used to treat hardening of the arteries in the lower limbs where narrowing restricts blood flow in the limb thus producing pain in the muscles of the leg when walking. Severe narrowing or blocks may even result in the leg becomes cold, painful or even starts to die (gangrene). The aim of balloon angioplasty is to re-open the artery to allow the flow of blood to be restored. Balloon angioplasty requires an initial angiogram followed by balloon treatment as appropriate. The angiogram is performed by an insertion of a needle into the groin artery and this is followed by the threading of a fine tube up the needle into the artery. Dye is then injected to make the artery show up on the x-ray screen.
Once the area of narrowing has been defined, a balloon is then threaded through the needle in a collapsed state. It is then inflated within the narrow segment of artery to stretch it open. The balloon is then deflated and withdrawn through the needle. A further angiogram is done to check that the result is satisfactory. The needle is then withdrawn from the artery and pressure applied to the puncture site in the groin to prevent bleeding.
On occasions the artery being treated may also require stenting. This refers to the placement of a wire mesh tube inside the artery to keep it open after treatment. These devices are mostly used for the arteries above the groin.
PROCEDURE - BALLOON ANGIOPLASTY:
The local risks of balloon angioplasty are rupture or thrombosis of the artery. This may often
require further treatment by means of clot dissolving medicine, or else an operation may be
required to repair the damage. This happens in approximately 1 in 200 procedures. Rarely
complications that are disastrous occur and the limb may be in danger of amputation from lack of
blood supply. The risk of amputation is 1 in 5,000 procedures and loss of life less than 1 in 10,000. Bruising (haematoma formation) may occur around the needle puncture site and can produce
some uncomfortable swelling and/or bruising on occasions. Mostly however, the puncture site is
not troublesome. Any excessive discomfort or bleeding at the needle puncture site should be
Your balloon angioplastyis performed by Mr. Milne or a nominated interventional radiologist. Mr Milne is always on standby should any problem occur after balloon angioplasty. Any difficult or complicated procedures are often performed by Mr. Milne and a radiologist in conjunction.