What is an Angioplasty?

An angioplasty is a surgical procedure to open the blood vessels that supply blood to your heart muscle. These blood vessels are also known as coronary arteries. Doctors often perform this procedure immediately after a heart attack.

The procedure is also called a percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty or percutaneous coronary intervention. In many cases, doctors insert a coronary artery stent after an angioplasty. The stent helps keep the blood flowing and the artery from narrowing again.

Having an angioplasty within the first hours after a heart attack may reduce your risk of complications. Timing can be crucial. The faster you receive treatment for a heart attack, the lower the risk of heart failure, other complications, and death. Angioplasty can also relieve the symptoms of heart disease if you haven’t had a heart attack.

How is angioplasty performed?

Doctors usually perform this procedure while you are under local anesthesia. First, they make an incision in your arm or groin. Then they insert a catheter with a tiny inflatable balloon on the end into your artery. Using X-ray, video, and special dyes, your doctor guides the catheter up into the blocked coronary artery. Once it’s in position, the balloon is inflated to widen the artery. The fatty deposits, or plaque, get pushed against the wall of the artery. This clears the way for blood flow.

In some cases, the catheter is also equipped with a stainless steel mesh called a stent. The stent is used to hold the blood vessel open. It can remain in place after the balloon is deflated and removed. Once the balloon is out, your doctor can also remove the catheter. The procedure may take half an hour to several hours.