Coronary Angioplasty: What To Expect

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Pain and pressure in your chest are scary. These can be signs of atherosclerosis, a build-up of plaque on your artery walls. Plaque makes it harder for blood to get to your heart.

About half of Americans ages 45-84 have atherosclerosis. Without treatment, atherosclerosis can cause a heart attack or stroke.

At UVA Health, you'll find experts in coronary angioplasty. This procedure opens up a blocked artery to allow blood flow to the heart muscle. In fact, U.S. News & World Report has given our heart attack and heart bypass care their highest rating, which means you'll be in good hands here.

Coronary angioplasty doesn't require major surgery. It's often done with a balloon that is passed through a tube (catheter) fed through your artery.

What To Expect During a Coronary Angioplasty

Your doctor inserts a needle into the artery. They pass a wire through the needle and into the blocked artery. A soft, flexible catheter tube slips over the wire and up to the blockage.

X-rays taken during the procedure help locate the wire and catheter. We inject dye into the arteries. This helps provide a better view of the arteries and blockages.

Once we reach the blockage, a small balloon at the tip of the catheter rapidly inflates and deflates. This stretches the artery open. Your doctor then removes the deflated balloon, catheter, and wire.

Your doctor may also insert a small mesh tube called a stent into the narrowed artery. It acts as a support to keep the artery open.

The procedure can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours. You may spend 1 night in the hospital or go home the same day.

Care After Your Angioplasty

At the Hospital

You'll need to lie still and flat on your back while a pressure dressing is placed over the catheter site to prevent bleeding. We may use a vascular closure device to seal the site. This helps you move sooner after the procedure.

Next Steps

Sometimes the artery narrows again. You may need a repeat angioplasty or coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG).

Why Would I Need Angioplasty?

You may need coronary angioplasty if lifestyle changes and medication don't improve your atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease (CAD). This is when cholesterol and fatty deposits build up on the walls of the arteries and restrict blood flow. An angioplasty can help prevent a heart attack or permanent damage to your heart.