So, your cardiologist has ordered an angioplasty? Despite some patient fears, this procedure is a relatively standard and straightforward one. We find that knowledge of the facts soothes our patients’ anxieties. The more you know about any upcoming procedure, the more confident you can feel about it. Today we’re going to attempt to answer all your questions about what to expect after your surgery so that you can go into it and the subsequent recovery feeling confident.
About The Procedure
We can’t dig into life after angioplasty without first explaining the procedures to you. Since you are in the position of getting this procedure, it’s safe to say that your cardiologist is hoping to get a peek inside your arteries. The most common reason patients get an angioplasty is because they have atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is the big word for clogged arteries. When cholesterol builds up in the blood, it begins, over time, to leave a waxy substance called plaque behind. As that plaque builds up, the artery narrows, making it more and more difficult for blood to pass through. Imagine how much pressure it would take to spray water from a garden hose if the inside was caked with wax. The same thing happens with your cardiovascular system. The added pressure required to pass blood through your body puts a strain on your whole cardiovascular system. It can lead to heart attack or stroke if not treated.
Angioplasty is the procedure that cardiologists use to clear the plaque from your arteries and allow your blood to flow freely. The procedure begins with a small incision on the inside of the leg or in the arm. From this point, the surgeon will locate the artery, make an incision, and slide a catheter into the artery. Since your arteries are all pathways eventually leading back to the heart, the catheter will snake its way through your body until it reaches the blockage. Once in place, the catheter can perform a number of other tasks. First, a balloon is inflated, which presses the plaque against the artery’s wall, making room for blood to rush through. Then, the surgeon inserts a mesh stent in the area to hold the plaque in place. The entire procedure can take as little as 30 minutes to perform (or up to two hours), and then you’ll be released to go home within 24 hours.
Recovering At Home
Once you get home, it’s time to start thinking about your recovery. The typical recovery time is two weeks, but this can vary depending upon your condition. Your cardiologist will give you instructions before you are discharged. For the first weeks after your procedure, you must focus on getting plenty of rest and take your medications as directed.
Avoid activities that raise your heart rate, such as exercise, heavy lifting, and sex. Again, your doctor will advise you when it’s appropriate to return to your normal activities. It’s easy for some people to become bored with the recovery time and push the envelope a little too much. Know that the time you invest in your healing early on will help you in the long run.
When You Need A Doctor
There are some symptoms that you should keep an eye out for after your angioplasty. Call for an ambulance if you experience severe chest pain, bleeding that doesn’t stop after applying pressure, or numbness in the extremity around the incision point. Please these symptoms very seriously. Call your cardiologist’s office for a consultation if you experience a fever, pain, or swelling around your wound or a tender lump under the skin at the incision site.
Getting Back To Normal
Recovery time after an angioplasty varies from patient to patient, though most people can return to their regular schedule within two weeks. However, you ought to take the time to determine which parts of your life are worth returning to. Typically, it’s some of our worst habits that lead to atherosclerosis. Post-surgery is a great time to start on a new foot and adjust some of your habits. Diet and exercise are two of the most critical factors when it comes to maintaining cardiovascular health. Foods high in unhealthy fats and cholesterol likely contributed to your clogged arteries. We urge you to commit to a diet packed with fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and healthy fats.
Exercise is also vital as it keeps your cardiovascular system in shape and your blood pumping. You dont have to run a marathon, but a brisk walk a few days a week can do wonders for your health. Depending upon your health, your cardiologist will advise you on what type of exercise you can do safely.
Other factors to consider are quitting smoking, limiting your alcohol consumption, and reducing your stress. Any activity that puts undue stress on your heart ought to be limited or eliminated.
We hope this has made you feel confident going into your angioplasty procedure. You are in good hands with the doctors on our team, so there is no need to worry about the surgery or recovery. We’ll give you all the information you need and support you moving forward. For more information about angioplasty or to become a patient of our office, contact us today.