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Difference Between Angiography And Angioplasty

magnifying glass pointing at dummy heart
Medically reviewed by Dr Rohan J Harsoda – MBBS, DNB(General Surgery)

If you’ve experienced chest tightness or shortness of breath, it could be a sign of narrowed arteries limiting blood flow to your heart. To diagnose and potentially treat these concerns, doctors use two important procedures: angiography and angioplasty. Though their names are similar, they have different roles in maintaining heart health. This blog will explain the key differences between angiography and angioplasty, outlining how they work together to identify and address blocked arteries.

What is an Angiography?

Angiography is a medical procedure used to check for blockages in blood vessels. The pictures taken during angiography are called angiograms. This procedure helps doctors diagnose several conditions that affect blood vessels, such as:

  1. Atherosclerosis: Arteries become narrow, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke.
  2. Myocardial Infarction (MI) or Heart Attack
  3. Angina: Chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart.
  4. Peripheral Arterial Disease: Reduced blood supply to leg muscles.
  5. Brain Aneurysm: A bulge in blood vessels in the brain.
  6. Pulmonary Embolism: Blockage of arteries supplying the lungs due to a blood clot.
  7. Blockage in blood vessels supplying the kidney.

By identifying these conditions early, angiography helps doctors diagnose and treat patients more effectively, leading to better health outcomes.

What is Angioplasty?

Angioplasty is a common way to treat coronary heart disease (CHD) and heart attacks. These conditions happen when plaque builds up in the arteries, causing them to narrow or become blocked. During a heart attack, this plaque can rupture and lead to a clot that blocks blood flow.

In angioplasty, a doctor inserts a thin tube, called a catheter, through a small cut in the groin or wrist and guides it to the blocked artery near the heart. The catheter usually has a balloon that inflates to push aside the plaque and open the artery.

Doctors use X-rays and a special dye to guide the catheter and see the arteries clearly. Unlike heart surgery, angioplasty is less invasive because it doesn’t require opening the chest.

Doctors might suggest angioplasty to:

  • Address abnormal stress test results 
  • Improve blood flow to the heart 
  • Ease chest pain (angina) 
  • Enhance blood supply to the heart muscle during or after a heart attack 
  • Help people with chest pain be more active

Difference Between Angiography and Angioplasty

Category Angiography Angioplasty
Definition Angiography involves using X-rays and a contrast dye to visualize blood vessels, aiding in the detection of any abnormalities or blockages. Angioplasty is a surgical procedure performed to clear blockages in blood vessels, particularly in the context of coronary artery disease, by using a catheter with a small balloon to widen the narrowed artery.
Types Includes coronary, cerebral, pulmonary, renal, reproductive, digital subtraction, magnetic resonance, computed tomography, and hepatic angiography. Includes balloon, coronary, cerebral, renal artery, PTA of the femoral artery, and carotid artery angioplasty.
Need Used for diagnosing coronary artery disease, investigating blockages in various arteries, and detecting abnormalities in blood vessels. Required when experiencing symptoms like chest pain, after a heart attack, or when blockages are present in arteries supplying vital organs.
Procedure Involves inserting a catheter into a blood vessel, usually in the heart, and injecting a contrast dye to visualize blood vessels on X-ray images. Often performed immediately after angiography if a blockage is found, using a catheter with a balloon to widen narrowed arteries and possibly placing a stent to maintain the opening.
Risks Minor risks include bruising, soreness, or mild allergic reactions. Serious risks include kidney damage, heart attack, stroke, vessel damage, or severe allergic reactions. Risks include artery tear, blood clot formation, irregular heartbeats, and artery narrowing post-procedure.
Recovery Time Depending on the complexity, patients may go home the same day or stay overnight for observation. Full recovery may take a few days to a week, with strenuous activity avoided initially. Recovery typically involves a period of rest post-procedure, with monitoring for bleeding or discomfort. Patients may be prescribed medication to prevent blood clots and advised to avoid vigorous activity for a day or two.
Aftercare Aftercare involves monitoring for bleeding or discomfort, and in some cases, staying in the hospital for observation. Dressing removal and wound care are important, along with avoiding hot baths and heavy lifting. After angioplasty, aftercare may involve staying in the hospital for monitoring, taking blood-thinning medication, and avoiding vigorous exercise for a day or two; dressing changes and careful attention to puncture sites are also important.
Alternatives Less invasive alternatives include CT angiography and MRI angiography. Surgical alternatives include coronary artery bypass graft (CABG).
Cost Costs range from approximately Rs 20,000 to 60,000 for angiography in India, depending on the hospital and city. Angioplasty costs range from approximately Rs 70,000 to 2 lakh in India, depending on the hospital and city.

Conclusion

Learning about angiography and angioplasty can be helpful if you’re keeping an eye on your heart health. Angiography is like a camera, showing doctors what’s going on inside your blood vessels and if there are any blockages. Angioplasty, on the other hand, is more like a tool used to clear those blockages and improve blood flow to the heart. Together, they help doctors find and fix problems early. If you have any worries about your heart, talk to your doctor. 

An app like health-e’s PHR can be a great resource. It lets you keep all your medical records, like test results and doctor notes, in one secure place. This makes it easy to access your heart health history and share it with your doctor whenever needed. Having all this information in one spot can help you and your doctor make informed decisions about your heart health, including whether procedures like angiography or angioplasty might be right for you.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

No, angioplasty can be done with a balloon or a stent. A balloon is used to temporarily open the blockage, while a stent is a permanent mesh tube that stays in place to keep the artery open. Stents are more common nowadays because they help prevent the artery from narrowing again.
Angioplasty is generally safe, but like any medical procedure, there are risks. Minor complications like bruising or allergic reactions can occur. Serious risks are rare but can include kidney damage, heart attack, stroke, or irregular heartbeats. Discuss any concerns with your doctor.

The procedure typically takes 1-2 hours, and you can usually go home the same day.

Angiography is very effective in diagnosing blockages in blood vessels. Angioplasty is also highly effective in treating these blockages, especially in the heart’s coronary arteries.
Follow your doctor’s instructions, which may include fasting, stopping certain medications, arranging transportation, and informing them of any allergies or medical conditions.
Jigar Patel is the Founder of Health-e, a HealthTech app that simplifies health records management along with providing personalized and preventative healthcare solutions. Although he has 20+ years of operations and management experience in the EPC domain, Jigar’s true passion lies in making healthcare simpler, faster and more accessible for doctors and patients alike. He strongly believes that people need to be empowered to participate in their own healthcare and is constantly thinking of ways to build this into his app. He loves to keep things simple be it in life, product design, his work or the content he develops. Being married for 10 years and having 2 kids have taught him that perspective matters, so you can always count on him to share new perspectives on various topics.