Angioplasty & Stents Save Millions of Lives
Fourteen years ago, I was asked to fly to Venice, Italy, to assist on a Gas project being built 17 km offshore. The authorities did not want such a highly explosive terminal close to the ancient city and put all the antiquities at risk of a large explosion.
Part of the conditions for working out there was to have a medical from a local doctor. There was no fail or pass, just that we had to have a current medical. We had to be capable of the work and living on an old Norwegian Fjord Ferry moored alongside the large industrial plant. I had thought I was fit enough, but an angiogram showed up some sort of unusual murmur. The Italian doctor showed me a computer printout with a couple of blips, which meant nothing to me, but he recommended that I visit my GP and then a cardiologist. Naturally, I was quite shaken, but I was due on my first rotational home leave and fixed up an appointment with my GP.
We were on two weeks on/off rotations and due to fly home directly after that medical. The GP could not see anything unusual on the printout, and he was my GP for many years, and I always trusted him, but to make doubly sure, he knew I was insured because of my work and got me booked in to see the cardiologist quickly.
The Cardiologist could not see anything that the Italian doctor had noticed either after giving me another angiogram, so he put me on the treadmill test and got his nurse to wire me up, and away I went with that stress test.
He got the print-out after, took a good look, and said, “I know what the problem is, and I’m referring you to my colleague at the London Hospital this week. His colleague wired me up again, clamped a device onto my wrist, and then pumped up and expanded my artery. A dye was sent through my veins, and he showed me the monitor above and explained it to me as if I was at work, “You see this large artery here that suddenly narrows and kinks like a 4-inch pipe suddenly meeting a half-inch elbow, that is your clogged up artery feeding your heart.”
Once he established what was required, he let the air out of my veins and told me to return on Friday to have a stent inserted. His explanation of a stent was that it was rather like a Biro spring with a balloon on the end that he would insert up to the blockage, that would clear the fat and crud where the artery had collapsed, then he would withdraw the balloon, and leave the spring behind as scaffolding to keep the artery widened. He said that I would not feel much apart from a sensation like heartburn in my chest for about half a minute.
Once he had done his job and removed the balloon, they took me to a post-op ward where a nurse let the air out of the device and my wrist, and she gradually reduced the air over a 2-hour period until she removed the clamp. I was still wired up to a monitor with sensors stuck on my chest at various positions overnight.
In the morning, another nurse came, took my order for breakfast, and checked my blood pressure. After that, I was given a prescription for the strong aspirin, Clopidogrel at 75Mg, and it had already been explained to me that I would have to take this for 12 months after the stent operation as it would keep my blood thin while an internal skin would grow over the stent.
All the doctors I saw along the route to having this installed were awestruck when they asked me if I’d had any clues or chest pains before, and my answer was always negative. I’ve had a treadmill stress test annually for over ten years, was given the all-clear 14 years on, and am still going strong.
I still must take medication for blood pressure and a statin at night as anti-cholesterol, but at aged 73, I now feel and look 20 years younger. A combination of Gym fitness and Meditation along with a healthy diet of fresh vegetables where possible helps. I am not a vegetarian or vegan, but I do ensure that my diet contains a predominance of fresh vegetables of as many varieties that my wife grows on her allotment, or we buy as a top-up and an oily fish once or twice a week.
I asked the cardiologist one time what would have happened if I hadn’t had the angioplasty, and his answer was that I might have gradually got more breathless and tired until invalided or just had a coronary and passed away suddenly.
The advent of this surgery in 1977 has been so successful that over a million procedures are now done yearly. Many lives are saved due to the wonders of these modern medical improvements.
Angioplasty: A coronary balloon angioplasty opens blocked arteries that cause reduced blood to flow to the heart. Most angioplasty operations leave behind a stent.