Angioplasty is the proven standard of care for stopping a heart attack in progress. But what about non-emergency situations? How will your doctor decide whether you are best treated by medication alone or with angioplasty to reopen a blocked artery and then placement of a metal stent to prop it open?
A key part of the decision making will center around the conversations you have with your doctor. How bad is a blockage? Where is it located? What is your expectation for quality of life?
Based on medical training, experience, and knowledge of practice guidelines developed by leading cardiologists and medical societies, your doctor will consider your unique medical history, risk factors, current symptoms, and lifestyle expectations, as well as the results of tests to arrive at a treatment plan that works best for you.
Most patients whose heart arteries are not severely blocked will first be treated with a combination of recommended lifestyle changes and medications. For some patients these strategies work. Others find that they still experience chest pain and shortness of breath. For these patients, angioplasty and stenting is often recommended.
Please note that if you have a stent placed, long-term medication will still be a part of your treatment plan to reduce the risk of a blood clot forming in your stent and medicines to prevent new blockages.