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Why do arteries close back off after angioplasty surgery?

Despite the creation of several devices to treat narrowing within the arteries of the heart, cardiologists have been challenged to find the ideal solution which will permanently prevent the recurrence of plaque formation within the coronary artery. The re-development of this blockage, commonly known as restenosis, following a "balloon" procedure to treat the narrowing is well documented and can occur within several months following the surgery.

In early studies, restenosis appeared to occur in about one-third of the patients who had such a procedure done. Today it is recognized that the restenosis rate following balloon angioplasty may reach up to 50%. If restenosis is prevented within the first six months following initial treatment, the likelihood of recurrence after that time is somewhat low, although still possible.

"No single culprit has been identified as causing these recurrences. There is an element of elasticity of the artery, itself, involved in many of these lesions, so that almost immediately following the surgery the opening narrows somewhat. There is also a complicated process involving microscopic build-up of material within the arterial wall, as well as regrowth of plaque with scar tissue, with possible development of a blood clot on the scar tissue.

Fortunately for most patients, complete blockage is somewhat unusual following a balloon procedure, thus the rate of heart attack in this group of patients is relatively low. Particularly when patients are informed of this possibility and instructed that symptoms such as recurrent chest pain are important signals not to be ignored. Follow-up testing with a treadmill study or a nuclear medicine stress test during the first six months following a balloon procedure can help identify patients in the early stages of restenosis. However, it should be noted that many patients with recurrent blockage experience no symptoms of chest pain.

In addition, it is important following any balloon procedure to maximize the possibility that restenosis will not occur. This can be done through diet modification and medications to reduce or eliminate specific risk factors. Patients who continue to smoke heavily following balloon angioplasty, as well as patients who have continuing high cholesterol levels seem to have a somewhat higher recurrence rate.

If restenosis should occur, there are additional options which can be undertaken, including a metallic scaffold-like apparatus known as a stent. Much investigation is being carried out to evaluate the effectiveness of a stent laden with different hormones or other substances, designed to prevent restenosis when placed within the artery. Anti-growth factor agents and other more sophisticated approaches are also being studied experimentally.


Galichia Medical Group, P.A.
2600 N Woodlawn
Wichita, KS 67220

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