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Medical Miracles: Balloon Angioplasty

Meet your guide...

My name is Pandora Thao. I am currently a senior at Monona Grove High School. My plans after high school is going to a four year university and majoring into nursing or biology. I have always had an interest in cardiology or the study of the heart. The heart is a very fascinating organ that plays an incredibly important role in operating a body. Treatments and surgery on the heart can be very risky for it is what keeps the body operating at all times, so I am always interested in the different ways the heart has been treated from the various types of heart diseases such as balloon angioplasty. 

Balloon Angioplasty

Guide: Pandora Thao

Medical Miracle

From the Texas Heart Institute, Coronary Artery Disease abbreviated as CAD, the most common type of heart disease, affects over fifteen million Americans. CAD results from a condition called atherosclerosis which is when a waxy substance forms inside the arteries that supplies blood to the heart. As the waxy substance builds up, the arteries narrows which makes blood flow into the heart very difficult. Angina, more commonly known as chest pain, may develop if the blockage from the substance continues to build up and gets worse. This can lead to a heart attack. Medicine can be taken to relieve pain from the angina, but the medicines do not clear up the built up in the arteries, so to reduce the chance of a heart attack there may need for a balloon angioplasty or stent surgery.

What is Balloon Angioplasty?

According to the American Heart Association encyclopedia, 

  • A balloon angioplasty is a medical procedure in which a balloon is used to open narrowed or blocked blood vessels of the heart, known as coronary arteries. A long, slender tube called a catheter with a deflated balloon on its tip is passed into the narrowed artery segment. Then the balloon is inflated and the narrowed segment widened. Then the balloon is deflated and the catheter is removed.

Significant Discovery

The first procedure was done on a coronary artery in 1977 in Zurich, Switzerland by German-born, Dr. Andreas Gruentzig. He was inspired by American doctor, Dr. Charles Dotter's first angioplasty procedure in a leg artery that was done a decade earlier. He moved to Switzerland to continue is research and work to creating balloons and catheters sturdy and small enough to get inserted into the tiny coronary arteries.

  • He showed his findings of balloon angioplasty at an American Heart Association meeting in 1975 which gained some attention by physicians
  • Physicians began to support and assist Dr. Gruentzig. One specific physician was American Dr.  Richard Myler.
  • Dr. Gruentzig and Dr. Myler were the first physicians to take on the first procedure surgery of coronary balloon angioplasty in San Francisco. 

This is an image of Dr. Gruentzig holding the balloon angioplasty catheter. 

Emerging Innovations

After the first successful procedures, he continued to improve the technique by performing more procedures to see what needed to change or fix.

  • He also started to teach other physicians from all over the world about this procedure, but due to where he lived at the time, there were many limitations to communication.

  • He continued to build his knowledge and techniques on balloon angioplasty for years to come.

  • Built a interventional cardiology program at Emory which became a huge success and was the place where most of the studies of this topic are.

  • Sadly he was not able to live to see the research outcomes on balloon angioplasty. Due to a plane crash he was in, he passed away at the age of 46. He was a true leader to many people and a hero for future patients who will need this treatment.

Impact of Balloon Angioplasty

Balloon Angioplasty have saved many lives for many years. Before angioplasty, people with blocked arteries would have to have an open surgery, but with angioplasty, it has impacted medicine in many positive ways. 

  • From a news article on BBC News on Health in 2014, Dr Duncan Ettles, president of the British Society of Interventional Radiology, said "It was a complete change in the way people were going to be treated. You cannot underestimate the impact of these minimally invasive procedures.
    • ​Instead of having to open up the chest completely to get into the vessels to unblock them, doctors are able to get into the arteries and treat patients in a less harmful and simple way. 
  • It has also improved the process of surgery and is less needed for traditional surgery. 
    • Dr. Ettles said, "If a woman is bleeding badly after giving birth we can take her into the angio room, find the tiny blood vessel that's causing the bleeding and block it off quickly."
  • For the rest of the world, angioplasty has saved millions people from blockage coronary arteries in the last 50 years. 
    • "In the UK alone each year, 75,000 coronary angioplasties are carried out, while around the world Dr Dotter's medical first has led to 60 million angioplasties in the last 50 years."                                                                     


What do you think?

Do you know what coronary heart diseases is or anyone who has this disease?
Yes, I know what this disease is and I know someone who has this condition: 1 votes (100%)
Yes, I know what this disease is, but I do not know anyone who has it.: 0 votes (0%)
No, I never heard of this before, and I don't have anyone who has it.: 0 votes (0%)
I sort of know what it is, but I do not know any one who has it: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 1

Future Directions

From, the future of angioplasty will probably be known as "angioplasty plus".

  • "Angioplasty plus" will allow for more practices to be done on other parts of the body because right now stents cannot be place in some parts of the body. 
  • Also another advancement that has already been approved and tested in parts of Europe, drug-eluted balloon catheters. For when it is inserted into the artery, the growth of the scar tissue will be delayed. This type of treatment has not yet been approved in the United States. 

I believe the future of any type of angioplasty will continue to grow and improve. With the types of technologies today's society has advanced, I believe that there will be great changes to make angioplasty something that can save billions more lives for the next fifty plus years.

Library Information and Media Center - Monona Grove High School - Monona, Wisconsin

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