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What Is the Difference Between Angioplasty and Angiography?

By Dr. Naveen Bhamri in Cardiology

Feb 08 , 2022 | 3 min read

1

Has your doctor asked you to go for angiography? Are you confused between angiography and angioplasty? No worries! Here you will read about the two different terminologies which have stark differences.

Angiography is a diagnostic test that examines your blood vessels to check for any potential heart conditions. Angioplasty is a Minimal Invasive procedure in which narrow arteries are made wide to treat the heart conditions through Radial or Femoral artery.

What is Angiography?

As mentioned above, angiography is a procedure that checks for blockages in blood vessels. The images obtained by the process of angiography are called angiogram.

When do Do Doctors Advise Angiography?

The procedure helps to diagnose several conditions that affect blood vessels for example-
  • Atherosclerosis- In atherosclerosis, your arteries become narrow which make you at the risk of heart attack or stroke. 
  • Myocardial Infarction (MI)/ Heart Attack
  • Angina- It occurs when the blood flow to your heart decreases and manifests as chest pain.
  • Peripheral arterial disease- In this condition, blood supply to your leg muscles decrease.
  • Brain aneurysm- In this condition, a bulge appears in your blood vessels of the brain.
  • Pulmonary embolism- In this condition, arteries supplying your lungs get blocked due to blood clot.
  • Blockage in blood vessels supplying the kidney.

Procedure

  • You will be awake during the procedure but your doctor might give you sedatives to keep you relaxed.
  • Local anesthesia will be given to numb the localized area where incision is to be made.
  • Then your doctor will make a small incision(cut) over one of your arteries, near your wrist or groin under local anesthesia.
  • He will then insert a catheter (thin tube) into your artery.
  • Catheter is guided to the area of concern that needs to be examined for eg heart.
  • Then your doctor will inject a contrast medium (special dye) into the catheter because blood vessels are not visible in X ray therefore dye is necessary to highlight the blood vessels in film.
  • A series of X ray will be shooted to capture the blood vessels as the contrast medium flows through your blood vessels.

It might take 10 to 15 minutes to perform this procedure. But generally you will be discharged within a few hours if no further intervention is required.

Complications of Angiography

Few risks associated with this procedure are-
  • Bruising
  • Soreness
Rare complications of angiography are-
  • Dizziness
  • Allergy due to dye
  • Shortness of breath
  • Kidney damage due to internal haemorrhage
  • Stroke

What is Angioplasty?

In case of coronary artery disease, your blood vessels become narrow due to deposition of plaque within the blood vessels. Plaque is a sticky material made of calcium, cholesterol, and other substances. Over a period, it may occlude the artery completely as a result parts of your heart won’t receive enough blood.  So to remove plaque present within your blood vessels, your doctor may suggest you angioplasty.

When Do Doctors Advise Angioplasty?

Your doctor may advise angioplasty as this procedure is a treatment for coronary heart diseases and heart attacks.

Procedure

  1. This procedure is done under local anaesthesia which means you remain awake even during the procedure. 
  2. Just like angiography, your doctor will make a small incision(cut) over one of your arteries, near your wrist or groin under local anesthesia.
  3. He will then insert a catheter (thin tube) into your artery.
  4. Catheter is guided to the area of concern that needs to be treated for eg heart.
  5. As the doctor injects contrast medium into the catheter, X rays are passed to locate the blockages.
  6. Once the blockages are identified, your doctor will insert another catheter with a balloon at the tip. 
  7. The doctor will then inflate the balloon to remove the deposited plaque. The deflated balloon is then removed. 
  8. In some cases, your surgeon may place a stent (a wire mesh metal tube). In that case the balloon is surrounded by the stent and inserted and then balloon is inflated that allows the stent to expand upto the diameter of the blood vessel. The deflated balloon is then removed.

Complications of Angioplasty

Angioplasty has minimal and rare complications just like angiography. Some of the complications are-
  • Narrowing of artery again ( when stent is not used)
  • Prolonged bleeding from the site of catheter insertion ( wrist/groin)
  • Allergic reaction due to dye
  • Blockage that fails to clear even after angioplasty and requires urgent bypass surgery.

Rare complications of angioplasty are-

  • Heart attack 
  • Kidney problem
  • Arrhythmia  (abnormal rhythm of heart)
  • Stroke
  • Coronary artery damage