During angioplasty, a balloon tipped catheter is inserted directly into a leg vein, and then threaded up to a coronary artery where the balloon inflates in an effort to flatten the fatty build-up against the artery walls, allowing blood to flow more easily. The American Heart Association (AHA) estimates that 434,000 angioplasties were performed in 1995.
Studies have provided evidence that the number of angioplasty procedures a physician performs per year may be an indicator of the procedure's possible outcome, including heart attack, emergency bypass surgery, or death. In 1988, the American Heart Association (AHA), and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) agreed upon a recommended minimum requirement for certification: 50 angioplasties for an individual cardiologist per year. In 1992, this number was raised to 75, but at the time the choice of these numbers was largely arbitrary. Two new studies now provide support for implementation of these minimum guidelines.