A common procedure (more than 1,500 a year in Northwick Park Hospital). Used to examine the heart arteries for narrowing or blockage. It typically is performed under light sedation and local anaesthesia and takes 20-30 minutes. These days the radial artery in the wrist is most often used, but in some situations we still use the (larger) femoral artery in the groin. A short valved tube (sheath) is placed in the artery. This allows longer tubes (catheters) to pass under XRay control to the heart. Xray dye (contrast) is injected which shows up the heart arteries. After the pictures are taken the catheters and sheath are removed, a tourniquet is placed on the wrist and gradually released over 4 hours. Most people go home on the evening of the procedure.
Our commonest treatment for narrowed or blocked heart arteries (6 X more often than heart bypass surgery). In Northwick Park Hospital we perform more than 500 a year. It may follow on directly after coronary angiography using the same athand similar catheters. Here a fine flexible wire is passed across the narrowing under XRay control. This allows a deflated balloon to be placed in the narrowed part of the artery and inflated. Once the narrowing has been widened a stent may be implanted in the narrowing. This is a flexible tubular metal mesh, typically 3 X 15 mm in size. More than 90% of angioplasties involve use of a stent.