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What Is Angioplasty?
Angioplasty is a procedure that opens narrowed arteries to increase blood flow. The procedure involves the use of thin balloons and other devices that are threaded through a blood vessel in the groin and into a coronary artery. The balloon is inflated to squash the blockage or blood clot and stretch the artery open, restoring normal blood flow. This procedure, also called:
  • Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty
  • Ballon Angioplasty
  • PTCA
may be done instead of coronary artery bypass surgery. The decision on which procedure to perform is based on variety of factors including:
  • the type and location of the narrowing
  • the extent of the disease
  • the risk involved.
Unfortunately, 25-80% of the arteries start narrowing within the first 6 months after the procedure is performed.

What Preparation Is Needed?
Please follow these precautions before coming to an angioplasty:
  • Do not eat or drink after midnight.

  • If you are taking any medications, please consult us about the following:
    • How to adjust insulin and food intake prior to the test.

    • Whether to take your regular medications the morning of the test.

    • If you are taking blood thinners (such as Coumadin), ask us whether you should stop the medication for a pre-determined period before coming to a procedure.

  • Leave all valuables at home.

  • Plan to be admitted to the hospital overnight.

  • Make arrangements to be driven home the following day.

How Angioplasty Is Performed?
Angioplasty is not a surgical procedure. It is usually performed in cardiac catheterization lab using X-ray guidance. If you are going to undergo the procedure, you should be prepared for the following:
  1. You will be given a mild sedative to help you relax.

  2. You will remain awake during the procedure in order to answer questions regarding you comfort level (you should mention if you feel any chest pain or shortness of breath).

  3. A small area of the groin or arm will be prepared for the catheter to be inserted.

  4. Then, a small incision will be made and a catheter with a deflated balloon on the tip is inserted.

  5. X-ray is used to guide the catheter up into the heart and into the narrowed artery.

  6. The balloon is then inflated and deflated several times to squeeze the plaque deposits against the wall of the artery.

  7. The test usually takes 1-2 hours.

Risk Factors
Although angioplasty has proven to be relatively safe, it carries some risk for complications. There are some risks involved in any procedure. However, angioplasty is widely used and complications are rare. Some complications may include:
  • Bleeding at the insertion site. This may lead to a small bruise and, in rare cases, to more serious internal bleeding.

  • Infection at the insertion site.

  • Damage to blood vessels in the groin.

  • Allergic reaction to the iodine-based dye.

  • Kidney damage and/or kidney failure.

  • Stroke.

  • Heart attack.

  • Need for emergency bypass surgery.

  • Death.

The risk of complications is greater if people are over the age of 70, or have conditions such as diabetes, hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) or kidney failure.

What Happens After The Procedure?
After angioplasty is done, you should observe the following precautions:
  • Avoid bending the leg at the hip for 6-8 hours after the catheter is removed.

  • Avoid bending or using the arm for several hours if it was used for the insertion of the catheter.

  • Hold the band aid firmly if you need to cough or sneeze.

Please contact us immediately, if you experience any of the following symptoms:
  • Discomfort or sudden pain at the insertion site.
  • A warm, moist and sticky feeling or bleeding at the insertion site.
  • Any discomfort in:
    • chest
    • neck
    • jaws
    • arms
    • upper back
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness

Useful Links
  1. Angioplasty/PTCA Devices and Procedures
    The Angioplasty / PTCA Home Page is currently rated as one of the most popular websites about angioplasty. They provide an excellent patient's guide that keeps the patient in mind and gives the reader an introduction to interventional cardiology. The site also includes history of the procedure and educational videos.

  2. American Heart Association's Position on Angioplasty/PTCA
    Visit this page to find out about the benefits and dangers of angioplasty. American Heart Association provides guidelines and statistics for this procedure.

  3. MEDLINEplus: Heart Bypass Surgery/Angioplasty
    This site will be an essential tool for those of our patients and their relatives who would like to do their own research about this procedure. The site contains a wealth of information organized in helpful categories. It covers topics such as latest news, research, rehabilitation, and more.
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