Coronary Angioplasty

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A coronary angioplasty is a procedure to open a narrowed artery in the heart in order to allow better blood flow through the artery and to the heart muscle. Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is the narrowing of these arteries, which can cause tissue damage to areas of the heart.  Coronary angioplasty is often done with a balloon that is passed through a catheter.

Why Would I Need Angioplasty?

Atherosclerosis is a disease of the arteries where cholesterol and fatty deposits build up on the walls of the arteries and restrict blood flow. This may lead to a heart attack.

You may need angioplasty if lifestyle changes and medication don't improve your atherosclerosis.

Treatment: What To Expect

Description of Angioplasty Procedure

Your doctor inserts a needle into the artery and passes 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. Dye, injected into the arteries, helps provide a better view of the arteries and blockages.

After the blockage is reached, a small balloon at the tip of the catheter rapidly inflates and deflates to stretch the artery open. Your doctor 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 mechanism to keep the artery open.

The procedure can take anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours.  You may spend one night in the hospital or be able to go home the same day.

Post-procedure Care

At the Hospital

You will need to lie still and flat on your back for a period of time while a pressure dressing is placed over the catheter site to prevent bleeding. A vascular closure device may be used to seal the site and allow earlier movement and hospital discharge.

Sometimes the procedure is not successful or the artery narrows again. You may require repeat angioplasty or coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG).

Possible Procedure Complications 

Complications may include:

  • Bleeding at the point of catheter insertion
  • Damage to the walls of arteries, which may result in more procedures or surgery
  • Heart attack or abnormal heart beats called arrhythmia
  • Allergic reaction to X-ray dye
  • Blood clots
  • Infection
  • Stroke
  • Temporary kidney failure

Content was created using EBSCO's Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.