When cholesterol causes plaque to form inside artery walls, the body’s natural response to injury can become its worst enemy. I attended a lecture yesterday to hear Dr. James Park, an interventional cardiologist with CIVA in Dallas, explain why this happens and what causes the need for stents.
Perils of plaque:
Like me, many people attending the lecture assumed that plaque build-up only posed a problem by causing a gradual narrowing of arteries that could, over time, restrict the flow of blood to the heart. Dr. Park explained that pieces of plaque inside artery walls could break away, causing the body’s natural response to injury to kick in. In an attempt to repair the injured area, blood begins to clot, which either further narrows the artery or completely blocks the flow of blood through the artery and causes a heart attack.
Dr. Park presented good visuals to demonstrate procedures for locating blocked arteries and restoring the flow of blood:
- Angiogram: Dye is inserted into arteries and an image taken to determine where the blockage has occurred.
- Angioplasty: A balloon is inserted into the area where the clot has formed to expand the artery and allow the clot to be broken into smaller pieces and removed.
- Stent: A support inserted into the artery so it will remain open to allow blood to flow through.
Procedures in action:
Video produced by Nucleus Medical Art from The Baltimore Sun’s Web site demonstrates these procedures.