Bill Clinton's Angioplasty and Stent Procedure (cont.)

Not every patient who has chest pain needs a heart catheterization to look for blockage. Less invasive ways of checking out the heart can be used, but the test needs to be tailored to the patient and their situation. Stress test, echocardiography (heart ultrasound), CT coronary angiogram, and MRI scans are alternatives that may be appropriate to use to assess heart function and blood flow.


Mr. Clinton ended up with a heart catheterization, a procedure in which a small tube is inserted into the femoral artery in the groin or the brachial artery in the elbow and is snaked into the arteries of the heart (coronary angiogram). Dye is injected, X-rays are taken, and if a blockage occurs, the same catheter is equipped with a balloon that can be inflated to squash the blockage into the blood vessel wall, reopening it and re-establishing blood supply to the heart muscle (coronary balloon angioplasty). There may be a next step, depending upon the situation. Using the same catheter technique, a stent or cage can be inserted to act like a scaffold to keep the blood vessel open and prevent it from reclogging.

Picture of coronary balloon angioplasty

Act IV

The purpose of all this work is to prevent a heart attack from occuring. Mr. Clinton listened to his body and sought medical care quickly. While he ended up with a heart catheterization and stent, his work isn't done. He and his doctors will work hard at further decreasing his cardiac risk factors to prevent the next event. He is a young man and at age 63 will want to look forward to years of being able to have a body that allows him to enjoy life, perform public service, and participate in family celebrations.

REFERENCE: Fauci, Anthony S., et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2008.

Last Editorial Review: 2/11/2010 4:01:09 PM