What is angioplasty?

Angioplasty is a procedure that opens blocked arteries and restores normal blood flow to your heart muscle. It is not major surgery. People with blockages in their heart arteries may need angioplasty if they are having discomfort in their chest, or if their blockages put them at risk of a heart attack or of dying.

What’s the difference between angioplasty and angiography?

Angiography is the process of taking an X-ray of the blood vessels to see which vessel is blocked and needs to be repaired. Angiography is performed before an angioplasty to locate the blockage by using guide wires, catheters, CT/X-ray, and a special type of dye.

How is angioplasty performed?

A catheter (thin tube) is threaded through a small puncture in a leg or arm artery to the heart. A tiny balloon is then inserted and inflated in the blocked artery. This opens the artery by pushing the plaque against the artery wall.

In many patients, a collapsed wire mesh tube (stent) mounted on a special balloon, is moved over the catheter to the blocked area. As the balloon is inflated, it opens the stent against the artery walls. The stent locks in this position and helps keep the artery open. The balloon and catheter are removed and blood flows more easily through the artery.

Follow-up care

If angioplasty is done through the leg, you will lie quietly on your back for several hours and your medical team will check for any signs of bleeding or chest discomfort. If the procedure is done through the arm, you won’t need to remain in bed.

You’ll almost always have to stay in the hospital for a night to rest. Sometimes a longer stay is required. There’s a small risk that a blood clot will form inside the stent, blocking blood flow in the artery. Your doctor will prescribe aspirin or other medicine to help prevent this.

Avoid heavy lifting or vigorous physical activity for 1-2 days after the procedure. 

Heart Services Are Nearby

If you have any symptoms of heart attack or stroke, call 911. Do not drive yourself to the hospital. EMTs can begin life-saving care immediately before you reach the hospital.

For more information, contact your primary care provider or Traverse Heart and Vascular at 800-637-4033.