Nonsurgical alternatives to artery blockage surgery include medications to dilate blood vessels and angioplasty, according to Healthline. These options are particularly important for people with ill health who might not be strong enough to withstand bypass surgery.
An angioplasty begins with a cardiac catheterization, explains WebMD. Medication for relaxation is given to the patient, and then the doctor numbs a site on the groin or arm with local anesthesia. Next, a thin plastic tube is inserted into an artery. A catheter is passed through the sheath and guided up the blood vessel to the arteries near the heart.
In the case of a balloon angioplasty, the catheter has a small balloon tip, according to WebMD. Once guided to the point of narrowing in the artery, the balloon is inflated to compress plaque against the artery wall, stretch the artery open and increase blood flow. In the case of a stent, a metal mesh tube is permanently inserted in the artery to hold it open.
Medical device maker Angioslide distinguishes angioplasty from surgery, calling it a much less invasive procedure. While surgery involves major incisions and general anesthesia, angioplasty is performed under local anesthesia via a small puncture into an artery. In addition, the recovery time following angioplasty is much shorter, and there are fewer serious complications.