Coronary angioplasty is a procedure used to open blocked or narrowed coronary (heart) arteries. The procedure improves blood flow to the heart muscle.
Over time, a fatty substance called plaque can build up in your arteries, causing them to harden and narrow. When plaque builds up in the coronary arteries, the condition is called coronary heart disease (CHD).
Angioplasty can restore blood flow to the heart if the coronary arteries have become narrowed or blocked because of CHD. The procedure can improve symptoms of CHD, reduce damage to the heart muscle caused by a heart attack, and reduce the risk of death in some patients.
Angioplasty is less invasive than surgery. General anesthesia isn't needed. You'll be given medicines to help you relax, but you'll be awake during the procedure.
Before angioplasty is done, your doctor will need to know the location and extent of blockages in your coronary arteries. To find this information, your doctor will use coronary angiography. This test uses dye and special x rays to show the insides of your coronary arteries.
Angioplasty is done in a special part of the hospital called the cardiac catheterization laboratory.
During angioplasty, your doctor will use a thin, flexible tube called a catheter with a balloon at the end. He or she will thread the balloon catheter through an artery in your arm or groin (upper thigh) to the blockage in your coronary artery. Your doctor will then inflate the balloon. This pushes the plaque against the artery wall, relieving the blockage and improving blood flow.
A small mesh tube called a stent usually is placed in the newly widened part of the artery. The stent helps prevent the artery from becoming narrowed or blocked again. The stent remains in place after the procedure.
After the procedure, you'll be moved to a special care unit. While you recover, nurses will check your heart rate and blood pressure. Most people go home the day after having angioplasty.
Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes after angioplasty to improve CHD and to prevent arteries from becoming narrowed or blocked again. Lifestyle changes may include changing your diet, quitting smoking, doing physical activity regularly, losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing stress. You also should take all of your medicines exactly as your doctor prescribes.
Angioplasty is a common medical procedure. Serious complications don't occur often. However, they can happen no matter how careful your doctor is or how well he or she does the procedure. Complications may include bleeding, renarrowing of the artery, blood clots, and more.
Research on angioplasty is ongoing to make it safer and more effective, to prevent treated arteries from closing again, and to make the procedure an option for more people.