In a healthy heart, exercise increases your heart’s demand for oxygen and the heart arteries can expand to deliver needed blood flow. However, when coronary arteries are narrowed, hardened and/or blocked by plaque, the heart arteries cannot increase the blood flow to meet the demands of the heart muscle. The imbalance in the demand and the limited delivery causes symptoms of angina. If the artery becomes blocked, a heart attack may occur. If the blockage occurs slowly, the heart grows collateral blood vessels. Collateral blood vessels are new blood vessels the heart builds to help supply blood around a blockage. Many times collateral blood flow does not supply enough blood to the muscle and symptoms of angina occur. An interventional cardiologist may recommend a procedure to try to open the artery.
During the procedure to open an occluded artery, the interventional cardiologist uses a special guide wire to gently cross the blocked area. If the wire can cross the blockage, an angioplasty or stent may be fitted in the blockage to help open the artery.