Coronary Brachytherapy

Medically Reviewed on 12/14/2022
Coronary Brachytherapy
Coronary brachytherapy helps prevent a heart attack, heart failure, or the recurrence of CAD symptoms.

Coronary brachytherapy is a safe and minimally invasive treatment for people with multiple stents or recurring in-stent restenosis, a condition in which scar tissue develops around the stent, causing blockage or narrowing of the artery.

The need for coronary brachytherapy has decreased because the newer type of stents (called drug-eluting or drug-coated stents) have decreased the rate of restenosis by 5 to 15 percent as they contain a slow-release drug, which limits scar tissue that grows inside the stent.

What is coronary brachytherapy?

Coronary brachytherapy is a radiation treatment of severe coronary artery disease (CAD) that helps prevent or remove scar tissue growth that can build up around stents (in-stent restenosis). 

It is also known as:

  • Vascular brachytherapy
  • Cardiac brachytherapy 
  • Adjunctive intracoronary radiation therapy

Coronary brachytherapy helps prevent a heart attack, heart failure, or the recurrence of CAD symptoms, such as:

What are the indications of coronary brachytherapy?

Coronary brachytherapy is used as a treatment for people with coronary artery diseases who have undergone percutaneous coronary intervention, a procedure that involves inserting a small balloon and stent (metal mesh tube) to open a blocked artery.

Coronary brachytherapy is indicated if you have:

  • Health conditions, such as diabetes (this increases the risk of complications during other treatments for coronary artery disease)
  • Multiple stents or a long stent
  • Recurring in-stent restenosis 
  • Small blood vessels

Coronary brachytherapy is contraindicated if you have:

  • Only one instance of restenosis
  • History of radiation therapy to treat breast cancer or cancer in the chest 
  • Restenosis (due to a problem with the balloon from a previous angioplasty)

What are the potential risks involved in coronary brachytherapy?

Similar to any other cardiac catheterization procedure, the risks involved in coronary brachytherapy include:

  • Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm)
  • Blood clots
  • Blood vessel damage
  • Infection
  • Pain/discomfort/bleeding at the incision site


In the U.S., 1 in every 4 deaths is caused by heart disease. See Answer

How is coronary brachytherapy performed?

Though the procedure only takes around 10 minutes, you might be asked to stay at the hospital for several hours.

The following are the steps of coronary brachytherapy:

  • Most people are sedated during catheterization procedures, but some people may receive general anesthesia.
  • The cardiologist inserts a catheter (a thin, flexible tube) into the narrowed coronary artery under X-ray guidance.
  • A tiny balloon is inflated in the narrowed artery to widen it for the delivery of radiation.
  • A controlled dose of local radiation is delivered for about 4 to 15 minutes to the narrowed area of the artery through a ribbon of radioactive isotopes.
  • This radiation destroys the cells that cause scar tissue accumulation in that area.
  • The cardiologist removes the radiation and catheter.
  • Most people are allowed to go home on the day of the procedure.
  • Adequate rest and avoiding strenuous activities for a few days are recommended.
  • Some medications might be prescribed to prevent blood clots.

After the treatment, you are advised to follow a heart-healthy lifestyle, which includes:

  • Consuming a low-fat diet
  • Limiting alcohol consumption 
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Staying active 
  • Exercising regularly

What are the other treatment options for restenosis?

Other common treatment alternatives for restenosis include:

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Medically Reviewed on 12/14/2022
Image Source: iStock image

Coronary Brachytherapy. Cleveland Clinic:,or%20recurring%20in%2Dstent%20restenosis.

Intracoronary Brachytherapy For In-Stent Restenosis Of Drug-Eluting Stents. NIH: