Angioplasty and Stenting  [return to the list of articles]

Arteries and veins are the blood vessels which transport blood throughout the body. The arteries take blood away from the heart and the veins return the blood back to the heart. The arteries can be affected by the condition known as arteriosclerotic disease which is a build up of fatty deposits or plaque along the blood vessel walls and can cause blockage of the blood flow. This decrease or occlusion of the blood flow can manifest in a number of symptoms depending on the location of the disease.

Arteriosclerotic disease of the blood vessels in the heart can cause chest pain or angina, which may signal a warning of a heart attack. In the brain, this disease process can cause a TIA "Mini-Stroke" or a full stroke known as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA). In the arteries that flow to the legs such as the branches of the aorta and illac vessels, the disease can cause pain with exercise called claudication or rest pain. If it progresses, limb loss is an eventual possibility.

A number of medical or surgical options are available to treat this condition. Techniques such as angioplasty or stenting are examples of the newer, lesser invasive techniques which were first started about 40 years ago. These procedures are used to open vessels that are partially blocked and are causing the patient symptoms. The procedure is done by making a small split-like opening, usually in the groin area, then a thin guidewire with a balloon attached is manipulated through the artery to the diseased portion of the vessel using x-ray guidance. The balloon is then "stretched" open "flattening" the plaque away from the blood vessel opening thereby allowing blood to flow through the artery again. Sometimes a wire mesh or "stent" is placed over the guidewire to better keep the artery open and thus restore the compromised blood flow to the extremities.

There are several benefits of these techniques. They are minimally invasive procedures where only a very small split-like incision needs to be made, a decrease in hospital stay and pain as well as a decrease in recovery time. Depending on the situation, long-term results are excellent. These procedures are best performed by a surgeon with vascular experience. The doctor can best determine if this technique would be of benefit. In some instances, the location or severity of the disease warrants traditional surgical bypass surgery.

These procedures are performed here in Hazleton by Drs. Butt, Carrato, and Bono who have had such training in this area of expertise.