Coronary Angioplasty: What Is It and When to Have It

With over 38 years of experience in the assessment and treatment of coronary artery disease, Dr. David Faxon explains the process of coronary angioplasty. Inspired by the work of Dr. Andreas Grüntzig in 1977, Dr. David Faxon was one of the first doctors in the United States to offer coronary angioplasty.

Over time, calcium, cholesterol, and other particles floating in blood collect along the interior walls of arteries. When this substance, called plaque, hardens in the coronary arteries, a process known as atherosclerosis, it narrows the opening and limits blood flow to the heart.

Coronary angioplasty is a procedure that opens these arteries so that blood may flow more freely to the heart muscle. This process involves the threading of a catheter connected to a small balloon through the affected artery. The balloon is inflated, displacing the plaque and widening the opening, restoring blood flow. Usually a stent, a small metal mesh is placed against the wall to keep the artery open and to deliver drugs to prevent a recurrance.

Doctors often recommend angioplasty to relieve symptoms of angina, or chest pain, and can also use this procedure to reduce the effects of a heart attack. This procedure can be done more than once if the arteries become clogged again.


A Brief Introduction to Cardiology

by Dr. David Faxon

Cardiology, also known as cardiovascular medicine, involves the study and treatment of maladies of the heart. One of the body’s most vital organs, the heart is comprised of the left and right atrium, the left and right ventricle, the tricuspid and mitral valves, and major arteries and veins, including the aorta and the superior and inferior vena cava. All of these parts work in coordination to propel blood throughout the body, providing oxygen and nutrients to the rest of the organs. The abnormal functioning of these parts often results in serious, prolonged illness or in death. Since almost 30% of all deaths result from cardiovascular disease, research in this area of medicine is of the utmost importance in the effort to preserve or extend human life.

Cardiovascular disease can include any ailment of the heart, arteries, or veins, such as cardiomyopathy, ischaemic heart disease, hypertension, and valvular heart disease. Some conditions of the heart are congenital, while others may be triggered by lifestyle choices. Susceptibility to cardiovascular disease typically increases with age, so, as is often the case, good decision making early in life can yield positive results later.

Cardiology has developed at an astonishing rate over the last several decades. Diagnostic tests such as ECG (electrocardiography), CMR (cardiovascular magnetic resonance) imaging, and IVUS (intravascular ultrasound) allow physicians to pinpoint and identify ailments with greater precision and accuracy than ever before. In terms of preventing cardiovascular disease, cardiologists can offer patients numerous options, ranging from the adoption of health-conscious diet and exercise regimens to drug therapies and surgical options.

As research increases our understanding of cardiovascular disease, it is important to educate patients about available treatments and preventive measures. Organizations such as the American Heart Association facilitate research while fostering educational endeavors.

Dr. David Faxon has worked extensively in researching and treating heart disease. He has contributed his knowledge to the American Heart Association for over 20 years.

An Interview with Dr. David Faxon

Dr. David Faxon has practiced medicine for more than four decades. He specializes in the treatment and care of patients who are diagnosed with coronary artery disease, and Dr. Faxon centers his research efforts on topics such as acute coronary syndrome, prevention of restenosis after angioplasty, and new interventional devices. I had the opportunity to talk with David Faxon about his career in medicine. What follows is the transcript of our conversation.

Q. First, I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy day to talk with me. Can you tell me about your professional education?

A. Certainly, and I’m glad to be here. I first enrolled at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in Biology in 1967. I studied at Boston University’s School of Medicine, where I earned my Doctor of Medicine degree in 1971. I participated in an internship and residency at Dartmouth Medical Center, and then returned to the Boston University Medical Center to complete a cardiology fellowship.

Q. I also understand that you are highly involved with the American Heart Association. What are some examples of your relationship with this organization?

A. I have been a member of the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology’s task force on practice guidelines, and I previously served as the President of the American Heart Association from 2001 to 2002. Before that, I acted as President of the Massachusetts and Los Angeles chapters of the AHA, and I am also the founder and first Editor-in-Chief of Clinical Updates for MyAmericanHeart, which is a program sponsored by the American Heart Association.

Q. You’ve made quite a name for yourself over the course of your career. What do you think are some of your greatest accomplishments?

A. Well, the one that I am most proud of is being President of the American Heart Association. I also pride myself on being the best Doctor I can be. I’ve been named a top doctor by several publications, which is a great honor. Good Housekeeping Magazine, The Los Angeles Magazine, and The Chicago Magazine all named me in their rankings over the years. I’ve been listed in The Best Doctors in America since 1997, as well. Since starting out, I’ve written more than 350 papers about my research and clinical experience, as well as 4 books.

David Faxon’s Blog

David Faxon has been actively involved in the practice of cardiac catheterization and invasive cardiology since 1976. As one of the first cardiologists to perform coronary angioplasty in the United States, David Faxon has built his prestigious career by focusing on teaching, translational and clinical research, public education and policy, and patient care.

Acting as the Program Director for several graduate medical courses in cardiology, David Faxon has helped to advance the careers of more than 120 cardiology fellows. Serving on the Scientific Session Committee for the American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Sessions, the largest cardiology meeting in the world, David Faxon was responsible for planning lectures, grading abstracts, arranging presentations, and providing input into meeting structure and content.

David Faxon is additionally involved with several medical publications. He was a member and Chairman of the AHA Publication committee that oversees all AHA publications. David Faxon was the founding Editor-in-Chief of both AHA Clinical Updates and Circulation: Cardiovascular Interventions. He also served as Associate Editor of Circulation.

As the AHA’s Co-Chair of Interventional Cardiology, David Faxon worked with the InterAmerican Society of Cardiology for two years. Collaborating with a South American counterpart, David Faxon organized the interventional cardiology component of a meeting for over 2,000 attendees. In a similar role, David Faxon was Co-Chair for the AHA Interventional Cardiology Program Committee, responsible for obtaining speakers and assisting with fundraising.

David Faxon has also played an integral role in designing examinations and programs in his field. As a member of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Cardiovascular Board, David Faxon created the examination for cardiovascular disease and oversaw examinations in electro physiology and interventional cardiology. While on the prestigious Residency Review Committee for Internal Medicine, a subcommittee of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), David Faxon recommended standards for internal medicine and subspecialty programs and approved all internal medicine programs in the US.