Angioplasty is a minimally invasive procedure used to widen narrow or blocked arteries, restoring blood flow. People who have coronary artery disease or a heart attack may need to have coronary angioplasty. Angioplasty is also used in other parts of the body that have narrow or blocked arteries, such as your neck, arms and legs, kidneys and pelvis. Angioplasty allows more blood to get through an artery that’s too narrow or blocked with plaque.
There are two main types of angioplasty:
- Balloon angioplasty, which involves using the pressure of an inflating balloon to clear plaque that is blocking an artery. This is rarely done alone except in cases when doctors are unable to place a stent in the required position.
- Stent placement in the artery, which involves a tube, or stent, made out of wire mesh. Stents help to prevent an artery narrowing again after angioplasty.
- Before beginning angioplasty, a healthcare professional will clean and numb the area where the catheter enters the body, usually the groin but sometimes the wrist.
- Next, a doctor inserts the catheter into the artery and directs it towards the coronary artery, watching its progress on an X-ray feed.
- Once the catheter is in position, the doctor injects a contrast dye through the artery, which helps identify blockages around the heart.
- Once they locate the blockages, the doctor inserts a second catheter and a guidewire, usually with a balloon at the tip.
- When the second catheter is in position, the doctor inflates the balloon, which pushes the plaque buildup away and opens up the artery.
- The surgeon may insert a stent to keep the artery propped open.
What are the advantages of angioplasty?
- It has less risk and a lower cost than a surgical procedure.
- You’ll only have one wound from where the catheters were and a smaller wound from your IV.
- Your provider can put in a stent during your angioplasty if you need it.
Recovery time after angioplasty
You’ll need to stay at the hospital for several hours or even overnight to recover from angioplasty. Your healthcare provider will tell you what medicines you need and how active you can be after your angioplasty. You’ll need to have someone drive you home from the hospital because you had anesthesia.
Get rest at home and drink fluids. Don’t exert yourself for the next 24 hours. You may need to take medicines like aspirin or other blood thinners after your angioplasty procedure. If your healthcare provider prescribed blood thinners, it’s important to take these as directed. Do not miss any doses. If you think you need to stop taking blood thinners, you should discuss it with your provider before you do.