When to consider angioplasty and stents for heart health

Written by: Dr Dwayne Conway
Edited by: Kate Forristal

In the second part of his series on angioplasty and stents, Dr Dwayne Conway gives us his insights on when to consider angioplasty and stents for heart health. In emergencies like heart attacks, quick action is crucial. But for stable symptoms, there's a choice between immediate procedures and taking medication. Patients and doctors work together to find what's best. Lifestyle changes and medication can be effective too, but each has its pros and cons. Understanding these options helps patients make informed decisions about their heart health.

When is the right time to consider coronary angioplasty and stents for heart health?

The urgency of undergoing angioplasty and stenting depends on how the underlying narrowing or blockages affect the patient. In emergency situations, such as during a heart attack, prompt intervention is crucial to restore blood flow and minimise the risk of complications. However, for individuals experiencing stable symptoms during physical activity, the need for immediate intervention is less pressing, and they may opt for medication alone without undergoing a procedure.


Ultimately, the decision regarding the timing of the procedure can be left to the individual patient. Some may be willing to tolerate mild symptoms, while others may prefer intervention to alleviate their symptoms. It's a personal choice based on individual preferences and comfort levels.


As for determining the necessity of the procedure, a patient's history, symptoms, and basic examinations, including an electrocardiogram (ECG), provide valuable initial information. However, to confirm the presence and severity of blockages, additional tests may be required.


A coronary angiogram is the most informative test, involving the injection of contrast dye into the coronary arteries to visualise any blockages or narrowing’s. While this procedure is highly effective, it is invasive and may not be suitable for all patients.


Other non-invasive tests, such as CT scans or stress tests, can also provide valuable insights into the condition of the heart and its blood vessels. These tests help identify abnormalities and determine the potential benefits of stenting, or if bypass surgery might be needed.


Ultimately, it's usually the angiogram that provides definitive information regarding the need for stent placement. If the angiogram reveals a treatable blockage, the procedure can often be performed during the same session, eliminating the need for a separate appointment.


Throughout the process, patient involvement and informed decision-making are paramount. Cardiologists discuss findings with patients, explain treatment options, and respect patient preferences regarding the timing and necessity of the procedure. This collaborative approach ensures that patients receive personalised care tailored to their needs and preferences.


Can lifestyle changes and medication alone be effective alternatives and compare to coronary angioplasty?

When considering treatment options, individuals with heart disease are primarily concerned about their risk of heart attack or death and their ability to live a normal life.


In the context of stable angina, angioplasty and stenting are not typically aimed at preventing heart attacks or extending life expectancy. Instead, their primary goal is to improve the quality of life by enhancing blood flow to the heart and alleviating symptoms.


Medications such as beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and nitrates are commonly prescribed to reduce angina symptoms and can be highly effective. For many patients, these medications alone may suffice, providing significant symptom relief and allowing them to resume their normal activities.


However, some individuals may still experience angina despite medication usage, have difficulty tolerating certain medications, or simply prefer not to rely on medication long-term. In such cases, angioplasty and stenting can offer an alternative approach.


The decision between medication and invasive procedures is highly individualised and involves a thorough discussion between the patient and their cardiologist. While medications can effectively manage symptoms, angioplasty and stenting may provide more immediate and sustained relief for certain patients.


It's essential to recognise that medications primarily target symptoms rather than addressing the underlying disease process. Drugs like statins and antiplatelet agents are crucial for reducing the risk of heart attack and improving survival rates by addressing the biological factors contributing to artery narrowing and blockages.


On the other hand, anti-anginal medications such as nitrates and calcium channel blockers primarily focus on symptom relief and do not alter the course of the disease. Similarly, angioplasty and stenting are symptom-relieving interventions rather than curative treatments.


Ultimately, the choice between medication and invasive procedures depends on individual preferences, symptom severity, and treatment goals. Healthcare providers work closely with patients to tailor treatment plans that best suit their needs and optimise their quality of life. This patient-centred approach ensures that treatment decisions are informed, personalised, and focused on achieving the best possible outcomes.


Dr Dwayne Conway is an esteemed cardiologist. You can schedule an appointment with Dr Conway on his Top Doctors profile.

By Dr Dwayne Conway

Dr Dwayne Sean Gavin Conway is a leading consultant interventional and general cardiologist based in Leeds and Sheffield who specialises in anginacoronary artery disease and coronary angioplasty, alongside atrial fibrillationheart failure and chest pain. His private practice is based at Nuffield Health Leeds Hospital and his NHS base is Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Dr Conway is highly qualified. He has an MB ChB and MD from the University of Birmingham and is a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. He completed his postgraduate training in Birmingham, Warwick, York, Plymouth, London, Leeds and a 12-month Interventional Cardiology Fellowship at Dalhousie University, Canada. He holds a Certificate of Completion of Training in Cardiology (2006) and is on the Specialist Register of the General Medical Council.

Dr Conway established the coronary intervention service at Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield, and is nationally respected for his educational work. He has directed regional and national courses for trainee cardiologists, including for the British Cardiovascular Intervention Society (BCIS). He is also the Deputy Training Programme Director for Cardiology in South Yorkshire.

Dr Conway has an international research profile. His MD thesis 'The prothrombotic state in atrial fibrillation: Potential mechanisms and clinical significance', was awarded with honours, and he has published in high-impact journals including The New England Journal of Medicine, Circulation, Heart, European Heart Journal, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, American Journal of Cardiology, American Heart Journal and the British Medical Journal. 

Dr Conway is a member of several professional organisations including the Royal College of Physicians, the British Cardiovascular Society and the British Cardiovascular Intervention Society. He is also a member of the European Association of Percutaneous Coronary Intervention, the British Medical Association and the Medical Defence Union.   

View Profile

Overall assessment of their patients

  • Related procedures
  • Heart attack
    Hypertension (high blood pressure)
    Heart failure
    Injury valves
    Heart murmur
    Ambulatory electrocardiogram (Holter)
    This website uses our own and third-party Cookies to compile information with the aim of improving our services, to show you advertising related to your preferences as well analysing your browsing habits. You can change your settings HERE.