Heart disease used to mean automatic death. There was no solution to preventing heart attacks or returning blood flow to blocked arteries. Nowadays, thanks to engineers, we can save those once lost lives. Instead of losing lives due to heart disease we can reduce the risk by using the process of angioplasty.
Angioplasty is the procedure where flexible tubing is threaded through an entry site such as the groin, wrist, or arm. Once the balloon is inside the body it is then pushed through arteries to the correct area of blockage. It is then inflated, usually several times, so that it drives and pushes plaque against the artery wall clearing it and allowing blood to flow again. Doctors use special dyes and X-rays to monitor the progress of the balloon in the arteries. It also helps guide the doctor during the procedure. This is a better alternative than other options because it is a nonsurgical process and can usually be performed in a minimal amount of time. This procedure is crucial because without it many people would lose their lives to heart disease or heart attack. It can do many things for people such as increase blood flow through the blocked artery. It also can decrease chest pains by relieving pressure in the arteries in the chest due to blockage. Angioplasty increases the ability for physical activity allowing the heart to pump more blood to needed parts of the body. It reduces risk of a heart attack and can also be used to open neck and brain arteries to help prevent stroke.
Engineering plays a huge role into angioplasty. This is not trial and error. They cannot try one thing and have it not work then try again. They have to get it right the first time or else it would kill the human. Every single aspect needs to be carefully thought out and calculated. Not only have engineers created this actual solution but they have also have accounted for all the technological advances in this method. Such advances are the use of stents and lasers. These also increase the blood flow in blocked arteries but minimize damage to heart muscle.
A stent works well because it is transported along with the balloon to the needed site and also inflates with the balloon. The difference between the two however is that the stent stays inflated inside the artery assuring that the artery will remain unblocked. After awhile the artery grows around the stent securing and holding it into place while still allowing it to permanently prevent blockage in that section.
Engineers have also brought to us the use of lasers in angioplasty. They can dissolve the tissue blocking the arteries. Finally, engineers have also discovered rotational atherectomy catheter. This is a quickly spinning diamond burr that can be used if the plaque is too hard to be pushed away with a balloon. It cuts away the plaque into millions of mini harmless particles that are then swept away and disposed of with the bloodstream.
The main engineering disciplines required in this process are largely biomedical, electrical engineers and mechanical engineers. Biomedical engineers are involved because they know the heart extremely well and understand the science of the human body. Their advanced knowledge helps them to solve medical problems with technology and invention. They are not doctors who perform this procedure but they are the ones who designed everything. Starting from the tube that enters the patient, the balloon, the stents, and all other required pieces. They also created the dyes to monitor the progress of the procedure.
Electrical engineers take a huge part in the laser section. These engineers have an emphasis in optics which is needed to design the lasers. They create and design these lasers so that they will have the correct parts. They need to make sure the power, type, focus, and size will be able to work effectively while not harming the artery or the heart. They also take a huge part in the technology because they create all the instruments that monitor the health of the patient and help to guide the doctor during the procedure. They also create the special x-rays that allowed the doctors to monitor the progress of the tube and balloon while in the arteries.
Engineers are still working to improve angioplasty but without them heart disease procedures would not exist at the success level they do today.
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