What is the difference between Coronary Angiography and Coronary Angioplasty?

While both terms may sound similar, they have a vast difference. Coronary Angiography and Coronary Angioplasty are two varied medical procedures but related commonly to the blood vessels; however, one is a detection procedure while the other is a course of treatment. Coronary Angiography is used to examine the blood vessels to detect a potential heart disease or problem, whereas Coronary Angioplasty is a surgical procedure performed to restore the flow of blood in the heart by removing the blockages from the coronary arteries.

Coronary Angiography

The procedure to check the arteries for any blockages in blood flow is referred to as Coronary Angiography. The test helps determine if there is any blockage in blood flow or any artery has been compromised, narrowed, blocked, enlarged, or malformed. This technique of detection uses X-rays to examine the ‘route maps’ of blood vessels and arteries in the heart, their passage, and overall functioning. A Coronary Angiography detects the blood pressure and oxygen level in the heart, providing a broader picture of the heart’s heath. The images generated from this process are called ‘angiogram’. Coronary Angiography uses a special dye known as ‘contrast medium’ to unravel the heart’s condition clearly. The dye is inserted through a thin, fine tube or catheter through an access point – most commonly the groin or arm. As soon as the dye comes in contact with the blood vessels, it provides an absolutely clear image of the blood vessels’ problems and can point any possible diseases or heart condition. The dye is later expelled from the body through urine or kidneys.

This medical procedure takes anywhere between 30 minutes to two hours of time but is completely safe and painless with almost negligible risks associated. Though in very rare cases, people might experience bruising, soreness, or bleeding on the point of insertion of the tube; or small allergic reactions to the dye. In the worst case scenario, there is a minute chance of experiencing severe allergies, dizziness, shortness of breath, anxiety, stroke, and internal bleeding causing kidney damage. These conditions are extremely rare, temporary, and can be treated with proper attentive medical care. Most of these complications are likely to develop based on factors such as age, kidney disease history, previous heart attack or stroke, or history of heart diseases. Though after a Coronary Angiography, the doctor may retain the patient in supervision for a few hours or overnight to check for any complications post procedure. You will be asked to drink a lot of fluids to flush the dye from the system and stay hydrated.

Post a Coronary Angiography, if the X-rays show a possible blockage, narrowing, widening, malformation, etc. in the blood vessel, the next step would be to opt for a Coronary Angioplasty.

Coronary Angioplasty

Coronary Angioplasty is a non-invasive surgical procedure performed to restore the optimum blood flow to the heart by removing the blockage from the artery, widening the artery for smooth flow, and ensuring optimal heart heath. A blocked or narrowed artery can cause a heart attack and hence, this procedure is performed to restore proper supply of blood and oxygen to the heart. Coronary Angioplasty is the after step of Coronary Angiography.

Also commonly known as Balloon Angioplasty, Coronary Angioplasty is the most widely opted for course of treatment to avoid major surgery. In a Coronary Angioplasty, the doctor again inserts a thin, fine tube called a catheter mounted with a tiny balloon into the blocked artery through an incision in the arm or groin. Once the catheter is in the right spot, the tiny balloon is inflated to remove the blockage from the artery and clear the passage to allow blood flow by pushing the plaque build up to the walls of the artery.

Once the blood supply is regulated, the balloon is deflated and removed from the body. This procedure is often time followed by the placement of a stent – a stainless steel mesh – in the heart of the patient to ensure the arteries do not clog again in future.

Coronary Angioplasty is a highly effective surgical procedure and has very high success rates. If a patient receives this course of treatment timely, it can reduce the chances of heart failure and various other complications. In many cases, it is also effective in providing relief to symptoms of heart disease. Along with benefits, Coronary Angioplasty also poses some risks such as bleeding or bruising on the point of insertion, irregular heartbeat, anxiety, damage to the heat vessel/valve, tear in the artery, hole in the artery, kidney damage, stoke or in the worst case scenario heart attack. In fact, Coronary Angioplasty is the most effective and widely used technique used by doctors in cases of heart attack since it is less invasive than the coronary bypass.

While Coronary Angiography and Coronary Angioplasty are connected to each other yet they are vastly different. Where the former is a step involving examination and the latter is medical procedure performed to cure the problem highlighted in the examination or detected/encountered otherwise.